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Full text of "The diary of James K. Polk during his presidency, 1845 to 1849 : now first printed from the original manuscript in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society"

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2011 with funding from 
Brigham Young University 



http://www.archive.org/details/diaryofjameskpol01polk 




Chicago historical ^octetp's 

COLLECTION 



Vol. VI. 



I/. I 

CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S COLLECTIONS— VOL. VI. 

THE DIARY OF 
JAMES K. POLK 

DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, 1845 TO l8 49 



NOW FIRST PRINTED FROM 
THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT 
OWNED BY THE SOCIETY 



EDITED AND ANNOTATED BY 

MILO MILTON QUAIFE 

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE LEWIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM McLAUGHLIN 

HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 



IN FOUR VOLUMES 
VOL. I. 



PUBLISHED FOR THE SOCIETY 

By A. C. McCLURG ti CO 
CHICAGO 

1 9 1 o 



Copyright 

By A. C. McClurg & Company 

A. D. 1910 



Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England 

Publication Committee: 

Dr. O. L. Schmidt 

George Merryweather 

S. H. Kerfoot, Jr. 



A special edition of 500 copies is issued for the Society 



PRINTED • AND ■ BOUND • BY 
THE • PLIMPTON ■ PRESS 

[W-D-O] 
NORWOOD • MASS • U '8 A 



DeDfcatefc 

TO THE MEMORY OF 

PROFESSOR CHARLES WESLEY MANN 

TO WHOSE SCHOLARLY ENTHUSIASM 
THE PUBLICATION OF THIS WORK IS DUE 



PREFACE 

THE considerations which induced Polk to keep a 
diary are sufficiently set forth by the President 
himself in the entry for August 26, 1846. 1 He 
adhered to the resolution there described to preserve a 
daily record of the events of his administration with a 
fidelity which seems at times, in view of all the circum- 
stances, little short of marvelous. The record thus made, 
covering the period from August 26, 1845, t0 J une 2 > 
1849, comprises twenty-five closely written volumes of 
uniform size and style, containing each, with the excep- 
tion of the last, which is incomplete, from one hundred 
to two hundred and fifty pages. Together with a mass 
of letters and miscellaneous papers preserved by the Pres- 
ident, the Diary remained in the possession of the Polk 
family until 1901, when it was purchased by the Chicago 
Historical Society. 

It had been Mrs. Polk's desire that some friendly con- 
temporary of her husband should make use of the papers 
left by him to write an account of his life and administra- 
tion, but this wish was never realized. Mr. R. H. Gil- 
let of New York, Register of the Treasury under Polk 
and author of the Life and Times of Silas Wright, de- 
clined the task on the ground of the inadequacy of his 
knowledge of Tennessee politics; and George Bancroft, 
who, late in life, took up the project, went no farther 
than to have transcripts made of the Diary and of a 
considerable number of the letters and miscellaneous pa- 

1 Diary, II, 101. 

vii 



viii PREFACE 

pers placed at his disposal by Mrs. Polk. These tran- 
scripts passed at his death to the Lenox Library of New 
York. But very little use has been made of the Diary 
itself thus far, although some scholars have consulted the 
Bancroft transcript. 

After the Diary came into the possession of the Chi- 
cago Historical Society various obstacles arose to delay 
its publication until, in the year 1908, the matter was 
taken in hand by the late Professor Charles W. Mann, 
of the Lewis Institute of Technology. He devised a plan 
whereby provision was made for meeting the cost of the 
enterprise and undertook the work of editing the Diary. 
To his efforts its publication at this time is primarily due. 
To this work his time and strength were given unstint- 
ingly, and he was stricken down with his last illness while 
in the Society library engaged upon it. At the time of 
his death, in May, 1909, he had outlined the task of 
editing the Diary and had prepared tentative notes for 
approximately one-third of it. The present editor has 
adhered to the general plan of the work which he adopted 
and has made as much use as possible of the notes and 
other material collected by Professor Mann. 

In preparing the Diary for publication the principle has 
been carefully observed that the printed copy should re- 
produce literally the original manuscript. Errors of 
spelling, of grammar, and of composition have therefore 
been allowed to stand just as the President, who wrote 
sometimes in haste, sometimes in excitement, often when 
beset with weariness or illness, made them. In the ap- 
plication of the principle indicated, however, certain prob- 
lems have arisen, the editor's solution of which should be 
explained to the reader. 

1st. Repetitions of words or phrases, plainly inad- 
vertent and meaningless, sometimes occur in the manu- 



PREFACE ix 

script. These have not been reproduced in the printed 
copy. 

2nd. It is often impossible to determine from the 
manuscript whether or not words were intended to be 
capitalized. In such cases of doubt Polk's customary 
usage in similar cases, if known, has been followed; in 
the absence of any such indication of the writer's prob- 
able intention, the correct form has been employed. 

3rd. In the case of doubtful words or passages the 
uncertainty has been indicated by the use of the bracketed 
interrogation. Where the passage is incomplete or fault- 
ily constructed, if the omission could be supplied or the 
construction readily remedied, this has been placed in 
brackets. The reader can always see at a glance, how- 
ever, what has been added to the original manuscript, and 
may ignore the editorial interpretation if it fails to meet 
his approval. 

4th. The reproduction of errors in spelling can oc- 
casion no confusion except, perhaps, in the case of names 
of persons. As far as it was possible to do so all such 
names have been verified and the correct spelling employed 
in the notes and the Index. The reader can ascertain it, 
when desired, by reference to the Index. 

$th. In the manuscript the heading of the daily en- 
tries is sometimes abbreviated and the order of the words 
used is varied from time to time. It seemed desirable 
to secure uniformity in this respect in the printed book 
and therefore the heading has in each case been written 
in full with a uniform order of words employed, regard- 
less of the form of heading used in the manuscript from 
day to day. 

6th. In the matter of punctuation the usage of the 
manuscript has been followed whether it accords with 
present practice or not, except in the following cases: 



x PREFACE 

Polk, like many penmen of his time, made a very free 
use of dashes; ordinarily their presence on the page has 
no significance, and their reproduction in print would 
serve only to obscure the meaning and bewilder the reader. 
They have, therefore, not been reproduced. In similar 
fashion, Polk habitually underscored nouns, and some- 
times phrases; for a similar reason, likewise, no attempt 
has been made to reproduce the underscoring in the printed 
book. Likewise the President's style of comma-punctua- 
tion differed widely from the present usage; to reproduce 
it would operate only to obscure the sense of the text; 
accordingly the manuscript has not been followed in this 
respect, and the editor is responsible for the comma-punc- 
tuation of the printed Diary. 

No labor or pains has been spared to secure accuracy, 
both in the reproduction of the Diary and in the explana- 
tory statements and references given in the notes. The 
editor is fully conscious, however, of the fact that the 
attainment of absolute accuracy in the reproduction of 
so voluminous a work is impossible. For such errors 
as occur, therefore, he asks the lenient consideration of 
the reader. Numerous friends, some of whom he has 
never had the pleasure of meeting, have assisted him, by 
giving information or otherwise, in the preparation of 
the Diary for publication. To all of these he wishes 
to express his obligation and his grateful appreciation of 
their kindness. 

M. M. Q. 

Chicago, 
April 15, iqio. 



INTRODUCTION 

THERE is an old story which doubtless often 
comes to the mind of the historical investigator; 
its moral is offered to him at the hands of the 
unbeliever; it is the old tale of Walter Raleigh at work 
on his History of the World, Looking out from his win- 
dow in the tower — if I remember the story aright, and, 
if I do not, it is no matter because it is a story — he saw 
two soldiers quarrelling in the court below. Realizing the 
difficulty of seeing and telling the truth about even a 
petty event, he turned back to his manuscript in despair. 
Such times of despondency come, presumably, to every 
investigator who appreciates the weight of his task, while 
the general reader of history doubts the capacity of any 
one to know the past. But there come also times of 
confidence when one sees that the assurance of the his- 
torian is not ill-founded and that his quest for truth is 
by no means vain. It is plain that of many an epoch 
one can know much — more, in fact, than did the very 
men of the time of which one writes. Naturally, we can 
see past events in proper perspective; we know a period 
better than the active participants in it because we see its 
results, and because events disclose their real significance 
by what they produce, and the product can be seen only 
by those who come afterward and look back upon the 
work of generations gone. But more than this is true 
— even of movements, motive, and incident, we often 
have a firmer grasp than did the men that were part of 
what we study. 

xi 



xii INTRODUCTION 

The Diary of James K. Polk gives peculiar emphasis 
to the truth of these assertions. There is a great body 
of material on the period — public documents, newspapers, 
private correspondence ; and we have, too, the recollections 
of Benton in his Thirty Years' View and his interpreta- 
tion of a period in which he was himself a conspicuous 
figure; but the reading of such a source as is here put 
before us shows that public documents may often be mis- 
leading, not only to the investigator but to the men of 
the day, and we see that Benton was sometimes in the 
dark or was but shrewdly guessing at what we know to 
be the fact. We now are able to look behind the scenes 
of the drama of sixty-five years ago, and even into the 
mind of a man who, despite his real simplicity, must fre- 
quently have sorely puzzled the statesmen of his day. 

The value of any historical source naturally depends 
upon its essential character. It is commonly said that 
unconscious sources are the best; that is to say, not chron- 
icles written with express purpose to hand down opinions 
and knowledge of events to succeeding generations, 
but materials prepared without reference to future times, 
materials from which one can glean facts because they 
are not obscured by the purpose of the writer or colored 
by his prejudices. Of course, historical students in view- 
ing a conscious source may find its most valuable evidence 
in what the writer does not say or in the things of which 
he is entirely unaware. Diaries intended for the edifica- 
tion of succeeding generations are, I imagine, peculiarly 
subject to the infirmity of prejudice: to make the worse 
appear the better reason, to give with assurance the items 
which one cannot really know, and to ascribe wrong mo- 
tives to others — these are temptations which human na- 
ture finds it difficult to avoid. But any diary, especially 
one written faithfully for one's own eye without the future 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

reader continually in mind, artificial though it be, is neces- 
sarily of great value in letting us see the man that writes 
and in giving us a view of passing events as he sees them. 

President Polk's Diary does not appear to have been 
written with the expectation that it would be conned by 
future historians. It lacks, therefore, affected self-con- 
sciousness at least. Probably he intended it to be a re- 
minder of what actually happened, and he expected to use 
it himself as a basis for some formal narrative of his ad- 
ministration. Though one needs to remember that the 
writer is a man of strong feeling and even possessed of 
certain inflexible prejudices, one need not fear that he is 
posing or that he is intentionally distorting the truth. 
It is plain that not through the public documents, the 
customary arid material for historical study, not through 
the passionate declamation of Congress, but through the 
quiet, keen words of this silent President, can we get the 
surest knowledge of the real course of events and of 
the men who played their parts. Possibly I exaggerate; 
all documentary material is doubtless needed; but certainly 
it can be said that we have here a source of unusual clarity 
and precision and truth, as far as conscious purpose se- 
cures truth, for if there be any foundation for the old title 
of "Polk the Mendacious," there is no reason for think- 
ing that he was mendacious to his journal or carefully 
deceived himself. 

The fact seems to be that Polk was a man peculiarly 
simple in his make-up. He was, on the whole, straight- 
forward — not frank, or at least not outspoken, though he 
could speak out with plainness when occasion seemed to 
demand speech — but he moved straight ahead with un- 
usual directness, following his course unflinchingly, guided 
by the light of a limited experience and often led by a 
prejudice or a partisan antipathy which one can fairly 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

easily detect. By nature he was too simple, too plainly 
lacking in wide sympathy, too narrow in his emotions, too 
straightly hemmed in by education and practices of life, 
to become the prey of conflicting impulses. And this 
means that he was not consciously devious and hypo- 
critical. Events or conditions, that would have turned 
aside a man less concentrated in purpose and less con- 
tracted in sympathy, were neglected or made to do service 
for his controlling intentions. 

It is impossible here to indicate, in anything like detail, 
what the Diary divulges concerning the great events of 
PohVs administration. In manuscript form it has oc- 
casionally been used by historians during the last few 
years, and historical investigators do not yet agree on 
some of the essentials of the period. It is not unlikely, 
however, that these printed pages will bring in a new 
and juster estimate of Polk himself and a fairer view of 
the four years which, judged by results, are second in 
importance to few periods in our history. We are likely, 
I judge, to form a more charitable estimate of his deal- 
ings with Mexico and with England, and to acquit him 
of any pusillanimous bluster and surrender to England 
while engaged in imperiously giving intentional affront 
to Mexico. However that may be, for it is not my pur- 
pose to write history or correct judgments, this source 
is now open and all who will may read. The days that 
saw the war with Mexico, the settlement of the Oregon 
boundary, the admission of Texas, the acquisition of Cali- 
fornia and the great Southwest, the beginnings of the 
acute discussion over slavery in the new territory, the 
Wilmot Proviso — the days that were filled with facts and 
opinions of supreme importance in our history can now 
be seen through the eyes of the stern, rigid, precise, pur- 
poseful man in the White House, who, limited as he was 



INTRODUCTION xv 

in his outlook upon the world, saw clearly along the line 
he intended to follow and took a hard, firm grasp of things 
that were near at hand. 

From this Diary we can get an intimate view of the 
executive office as it was sixty-five years ago. It must be 
remembered that the White House has practically no 
archives; even letters and correspondence of great polit- 
ical moment belong to the man, not to the President. A 
large portion of the executive work has always been done 
in confidence and seclusion. The deliberations of the 
President and his advisers are not so secret as those of 
the English cabinet; but meetings are not open, and the 
essential connections between the President and Congress, 
and even those between the President and administrative 
officers, are largely made by personal interview and by non- 
public understanding or promise. In these pages we can 
see how at least one President did his work, how he was 
interviewed, how he dealt with Congressman and office- 
holder, and how he treated — most amazing problem of 
all — the ever busy office-hunter. The Presidential office 
was still governed by the precedents of Jeffersonian sim- 
plicity and democratic unreserve; sight-seers and public 
ministers, office-seekers and Congressmen, even beggars 
for alms found their way to the executive presence. And 
though Polk fretted at the interruptions and at the thought- 
less importunity of callers, it does not seem to have oc- 
curred to him that he could imitate remotely the exclusive 
seclusion of a European potentate. That America should 
be simple and free, that it must avoid the ostentation and 
reserve of Europe, were ideas — so typical of thought 
and practice in the first half of the nineteenth century — 
which firmly held him. 

The President's dislike for office-seekers finally 
amounted to hatred, and yet he was wedded to the spoils 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

system and did not distinctly see the connection be- 
tween office-hunting and the system which he followed 
with such unyielding rigor. There are throughout the 
whole Diary but few gleams of humor; it is almost as 
matter-of-fact as a treatise on quaternions. But the of- 
fice-seeker so disturbed the normal workings of a sober 
mind that on one occasion at least he came near seeing 
the humor of a situation; "a gay person of good char- 
acter, accustomed to good society," who was u rather a 
pretty woman," implored him to provide with office a 
clerk, her lover, whom she fain would marry, for u she 
could not marry her lover while he was a Clerk." One 
cannot help thinking that Polk saw that the incident had 
its humorous ingredient, but after narrating the occur- 
rence and stating the appeal, he contents himself with 
the grave declaration that, "The dispensation of the 
patronage of the Government will weaken if not break 
down any administration." 

From these pages, too, we obtain as nowhere else 
a personal and immediate view of the conduct of the 
Mexican War and even the progress of its campaigns. 
We need to be on our guard against Polk's unyielding 
suspicion of the Whigs, whom he called Federalists, 
charging them in the word with aristocratic narrowness 
and vicious constitutional theories. But, if we are cau- 
tious about accepting his judgments as to Whig generals 
and leaders, we can gather much knowledge of conditions 
and of purposes even in the planning of campaigns. 

Some idea of the interest and value of the Diary dis- 
closing political conditions and giving evidence of the 
character of the writer can be gained by reading the entry 
under the date of March 3, 1849. These pages present 
a stirring picture of active politics during days of great 
sectional and partisan excitement. They show, too, some 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

of the essentials of Polk's character which the narrative 
does not, probably, throw into false relief. His de- 
termination not to sign the appropriation bill if it con- 
tained a clause embodying the principle of the Wilmot 
Proviso shows a strain of determination and decision 
which appear to be characteristic of the man. Perhaps 
one is always inclined to think of oneself as firm and con- 
sistent, especially when, as in this case, one writes after 
the crisis is past; but the reader will probably conclude 
that this quality- of decision — or obstinacy — was real and 
characteristic of the precise, unyielding man who appears 
from his own account to be so unrelenting and calm during 
hours of excitement and hurry. 

The Diary is so full of interesting material that I find 
it necessary to struggle against the desire to make many 
references and long quotations. Fortunately these are 
quite unnecessary, for the matter is here and the reader 
can see for himself. I must yield, however, to the tempta- 
tion to call attention to the passage touching upon ap- 
pointments to the Supreme Bench. It discloses Polk's 
dislike of the Whigs and his own belief that he stood for 
strict construction; and it illustrates most suggestively 
how the Executive, through his appointments, can form, 
or seek to form, the character of the Court and deter- 
mine its standing on constitutional construction. On 
December 24, 1845, as Wl ^ De seen from the Diary, he 
discovers that Buchanan "is in a pet" because the Presi- 
dent has not nominated as Justice the man whom the 
Secretary of State desired. The President's reflections 
and expressions of opinion are interesting reading. The 
Court, it appears, must not be allowed u to relapse into 
the Broad Federal doctrines of Judge Marshall & Judge 
Story" ; every care must be taken to see that men of orig- 
inal, native, and pure Democracy are elevated to this 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

position of decisive influence. "I have never known an 
instance of a Federalist," writes Polk, "who had after 
arriving at the age of 30 professed to change his opinions, 
who was to be relied on in his constitutional opinions. 
All of them who have been appointed to the Supreme 
Court Bench, after having secured a place for life became 
very soon broadly Federal and latitudinarian in all their 
decisions involving questions of Constitutional power." 

Of men of the time conspicuous in public affairs we 
find suggestions and helpful information. Again we 
must admit the continual influence of Polk's own personal 
attitude and the temperamental tendency to sharp, un- 
sympathetic criticism. And yet we get an opportunity to 
see men as Polk saw them; probably conversations and 
opinions are not wrongly reported. Moreover, it must 
be said, the reader feels compelled to recognize the jus- 
tice and force of his estimates of character and often to 
admit that Polk was justified by what he saw in confid- 
ing to his Diary many a harsh judgment. If he was at 
times overcritical, he was penetrating and keen. He 
entertained no high opinion of Andrew Johnson, then a 
Democratic Congressman from Polk's own State : u He 
is very vindictive," says the Diary, "and perverse in his 
temper and conduct. If he had the manliness or inde- 
pendence to manifest his opposition openly, he knows he 
could not be again elected by his constituents. I am not 
aware that I have ever given him cause of offense." Of 
Buchanan, who is not yet a favorite with writers of 
history, we are not furnished with an attractive picture. 
Polk believes him able and strong, but shifty, or at all 
events not consistent; he appears variable, influenced, as 
Polk was not, by changing public opinion, and led astray 
by personal ambitions and desires when the route of travel 
appeared to stretch straight ahead. It is certainly diffi- 



INTRODUCTION xix 

cult to read Polk's comments and the facts he gives with- 
out feeling a tendency to surrender to his estimate. 

Of Calhoun, too, the view is not agreeable; guard 
oneself as one will by remembering the nature of Polk's 
mind and the color of his prejudices, the reader is forced 
to take his statements into consideration in any estimate 
of Calhoun's purposes and character. From our present 
view-point, looking back on the issues of the time, we feel 
drawn to the President, himself a slaveholder, who could 
face the grim Calhoun so coolly, could see his duty so 
clearly, and could be so amazingly uninfluenced by his 
own economic interest. "I became perfectly satisfied," 
he says after an interview with the South Carolina Senator 
in January, 1849, m which they discussed the subject of 
slavery in California and New Mexico, "that he did not 
desire that Congress should settle the question at the 
present Session, and that he desired to influence the South 
upon the subject, whether from personal or patriotic 
views it is not difficult to determine. I was firm and de- 
cided in my conversation with him, intending to let him 
understand distinctly that I gave no countenance to any 
movement which tended to violence or the disunion of 
the States." Delicate and difficult as the situation was, 
he looked at the question of disunion and the excitement 
of pro-slavery and anti-slavery men alike with open eyes, 
as usual without great and deep human emotion, but, 
within the range of his vision, with courage and precision. 
"My opinions," he wrote on December 23, 1848, "as 
[to] the wickedness of agitating the subject in Congress 
are well settled, & events may occur which will make it 
my duty to incur high & vast responsibilities. I will meet 
them, but am resolved to give no favour to violent or 
disunion movements, but on the contrary to do everything, 
consistently with my sense of constitutional duty, to pre- 



xx INTRODUCTION 

serve the Union & its harmony." In these and many other 
passages we see his estimate of Calhoun's character and 
purposes, and his own attitude toward the Union and 
slavery agitation. 

It is impossible in short space to do more than roughly 
indicate some qualities of this interesting document. It 
has already been used, as I have said, by a few historians 
of the period and from it many important facts have 
been gleaned. In the future it is likely to be of con- 
tinual usefulness. Such values as I have attributed to 
it are, I am sure, not overdrawn. It can be said with 
some confidence that it is more than a source for the 
professional historian; much of it will be read with 
interest by the general reader of history and by the 
student of American politics and biography. 

Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin. 

University of Chicago, 
February, igio. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

IT IS a well recognized truth that the definitive history 
of an age or a movement cannot be written by con- 
temporary observers. Lapse of time is essential to 
the attainment of an adequate historical perspective. 
This truth applies equally to individuals as to epochs. 
The judgment passed upon one's career by his contempo- 
raries may be completely reversed by the verdict of 
posterity. The treatment thus far accorded James K. 
Polk by his countrymen has been curious. In the main 
he has been remembered only to be reviled, and one may 
safely assert that the final judgment of history upon his 
career has not yet been past. Prior to his accession 
to the presidency he had passed through a long and 
honorable public career, both in his State and in the Na- 
tion, yet he stands forth in history as the first dark horse 
of American politics. He conducted his administration 
with force and ability, carrying to completion during 
its course every item of the comprehensive programme 
the execution of which he had proposed to himself before 
his inauguration. He directed a successful foreign war, 
as a result of which our western boundary was carried 
from the Rockies to the Pacific. Yet the administra- 
tion of few of our Presidents has evoked such a storm 
of hostile criticism as did his, and few, probably, of the 
occupants of the presidential office have laid down its 
burdens with so sincere a sense of relief as did Polk. 
His administration ranks among the most important in 
our history, and undeniably Polk was the master who 

xxi 



xxii BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

guided its course. But he passed from the presidency 
to an early grave, and therewith began a period of ob- 
scurity which has continued to the present time. He has 
found no adequate biographer and but few friendly 
critics, such attention as he has received having been, in 
the main, from writers imbued with the idea that the 
Mexican War was one of unjust aggression on the part 
of the United States, inspired by Polk's malevolence and 
waged in the interests of the slave-holding South. That 
this judgment will be materially modified by scholars, 
now that the passions of two generations ago have sub- 
sided, may well be believed. Fortunately Polk himself 
has provided, in his Diary, a storehouse of valuable mate- 
rial which henceforth may be drawn upon by the historian 
in forming a just estimate of his career and of the period 
of which it was a part. 

Though reared to manhood amid primitive surround- 
ings in what was virtually a frontier community, Polk * 
came of sterling family stock. His ancestors belonged 
to the Scotch-Irish element which, originating in Scot- 
land, migrated to Ireland in the early Stuart period. 
Presbyterians and "Covenanters," they left Ireland in 
turn to seek in the New World a place where they might 
shape unhindered congenial religious and political institu- 
tions. The founder of the Polk family in America was 
Robert Polk, who came from Ireland to America toward 
the middle of the eighteenth century and settled in 
Somerset County on the eastern shore of Maryland. 
Some of his descendants remained here, and their repre- 
sentatives were to be found in Maryland at the time 
of Polk's administration. Others, among them Thomas 

1 1 have relied largely upon Jenkins, Life of James K. Polk, 
for the facts relating to the President's family and early personal 
history. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH xxiii 

and Ezekial Polk, followed the tide of Scotch-Irish 
migration to the west and south until they settled in 
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. It was this com- 
munity, made up in large part of men of Puritan stock, 
which originated the Mecklenburg Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. Into the question of the authenticity of this 
document there is here no need to enter; but the existence 
of the tradition serves to indicate the character of the 
community which gave it birth. One of the members of 
this community was Colonel Thomas Polk, who, accord- 
ing to tradition, issued the call for the. Mecklenburg 
Convention, and, together with his brother, Ezekial, took 
a prominent part in the ensuing deliberations which re- 
sulted in the adoption of the Declaration. 

Thomas Polk, who, with his brother, took a prominent 
part in his section in the resulting war of the Revolution, 
was the great-uncle, and Ezekial Polk the grandfather, 
of James, the future eleventh President of the United 
States. In 1794, in Mecklenburg County, occurred the 
marriage of Samuel Polk, son of Ezekial, to Jane Knox. 
To them was born, January 2, 1795, a son, to whom was 
given the name of James Knox Polk, after his maternal 
grandfather. Samuel Polk was a plain farmer, and in 
the hope of bettering his material condition he moved, 
in 1806, to the Tennessee country, becoming one of the 
pioneer settlers of the Duck River valley, at this time 
virtually a wilderness. Here was enacted during the 
next few years the process, so often repeated in American 
history, of the transformation of the wilderness into a 
seat of civilization and prosperity. Under the favor- 
able circumstances of this environment Samuel Polk's in- 
dustry rewarded him in the course of a few years with a 
competence, and at his death in 1827 he was regarded as 
one of the substantial men of the community. 



xxiv BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Such was the character of the environment in which 
the son James grew to manhood. Its advantages and its 
disadvantages were those common to the frontier com- 
munity. The opportunities for education, for contact 
with the gentler and more refined aspects of civilization, 
were meagre; in their absence the frontier boy must find 
his compensation in the development of those virtues 
peculiarly fostered by the frontier — habits of independ- 
ence, initiative, perseverance, and forceful self-reliance. 
That his youthful training resulted in the acquisition of 
these qualities Polk's career as President abundantly 
demonstrate. He shared in the daily toil of the farm, 
and was the constant companion of his father on the 
numerous surveying expeditions of the latter. Often for 
weeks at a time they endured the toils and hardships in- 
cident to threading the wilderness, and the exposure to 
the elements which this manner of living entailed. 

Probably no better fortune could have befallen young 
Polk than this active, out-door boyhood. He was natu- 
rally of a studious disposition, fond of mathematics and 
of reading, and ambitious to learn a profession. His 
father at first encouraged him to make use of such educa- 
tional facilities as the new community afforded; but his 
health, never robust, began to give way, and so a mercan- 
tile career was planned for him, as being more suitable 
to his physical condition. But Polk's aversion to the 
mercantile life was such that after a few weeks' trial he 
obtained the parental permission to abandon it. In the 
Summer of 1813 he resumed his studies. Two years 
later he entered the University of North Carolina, from 
which, in the Spring of 18 18, he was graduated at the 
head of his class. The student life of the college was at 
this time rough and turbulent, and primitive methods of 
instruction prevailed. Combats between students and de- 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH xxv 

fiance of the instructors were by no means unusual. In 
the midst of such surroundings Polk manifested those 
traits of character, industry, and devotion to duty which 
he exhibited throughout his later career. He was punc- 
tual and painstaking in the performance of every duty, a 
hard worker, and an exemplary student. Many years 
later, in his farewell speech as Speaker of the House of 
Representatives, Polk stated that during his fourteen 
years of service in that body he had never absented him- 
self from a session except when compelled thereto by 
illness. 

Returning to Tennessee early in the year 1819, Polk 
began, in the office of Felix Grundy, to fit himself for 
a legal career, and two years later he was admitted to the 
bar. But the profession of the lawyer' was closely allied 
to that of the politician in this period, and in addition 
to the practice of the law Polk's attention was early 
turned to politics. Of the thirty years of life that re- 
mained to him he was to spend over two-thirds in the 
public service, in the capacities of legislator, Governor, 
and President. His rise was rapid both in the legal and 
in the political field. In 1823 he was elected to the 
legislature from his home county, having already served 
as chief clerk of the House of Representatives. His 
service in these positions attracted the attention and was 
instrumental in gaining for him the friendship of Gen- 
eral Jackson. At the end of two years of service in the 
State legislature he offered himself to the voters of his 
District as a candidate for Congress, and the powerful 
support of Jackson and Grundy was sufficient to insure 
his election. Polk was always grateful for this support, 
as well he might be, for the friendship of Jackson was 
to prove the greatest aid to his future advancement. 
Although one of the youngest members of the House 



xxvi BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Polk soon rose to a leading position in its ranks. 
Throughout Jackson's presidency he was one of the ad- 
ministration leaders in the House. In 1830 he stoutly de- 
fended the President's veto of the Maysville Road bill, 
carrying with it the condemnation of the whole issue of 
internal improvements. Two years later he was trans- 
ferred to the important committee on Ways and Means 
and in 1833, as chairman of this committee, he initiated 
and assumed direction in the House of Jackson's war on 
the second United States Bank. The prominence which 
resulted from this leadership and the devotion shown to 
Jackson were influential factors in Polk's successful can- 
didacy for the Speakership in 1835. He occupied this 
office for four years when, because of the political situa- 
tion which had developed in Tennessee, he voluntarily 
retired from Congress to become the Democratic can- 
didate for Governor of his State. 

Polk's career as member and as Speaker of the House 
had resulted in bringing him forward as the head of the 
Jackson party in Tennessee, which had been defeated 
in the presidential election of 1836 and again in the 
State election of 1837. It was determined by the friends 
of Jackson that a strong effort should be made in 1839 
to regain control of the State, and Polk was selected, 
because of his position and strength, to lead what was 
regarded as a forlorn-hope campaign. In spite of the un- 
favorable conditions under which he entered upon the 
contest, he was elected Governor by a small majority. He 
was defeated for reelection in 1841, however, by reason 
of the wave, of Whiggery which had swept over the 
country with the presidential campaign of the preceding 
year. Except for a few short weeks following the close 
of his presidential term, the four years from 1841 to 
1845 comprise the only period, from the time he was 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH xxvii 

elected to the State legislature in 1823 until his death, 
when Polk was free from the cares of public office. 

The real issue involved in the election of 1844 was 
that of the annexation of Texas. In few presidential 
campaigns, probably, has one issue dominated the field 
more completely than did this one in 1844. Yet it had 
arisen suddenly, its appearance having been likened by a 
prominent historian to a bomb which "exploded just in 
time to take effect on the two great nominating conventions 
and their platforms. " The leading parties, the Whig and 
the Democratic, were national in their composition, and in 
the main had divided thus far on purely national is- 
sues. The new issue, however, wore a dangerously sec- 
tional aspect; and the annexation of Texas proved to be 
the first step in that process of territorial expansion which, 
involving as it did the question of the extension of the 
area of slavery, was to lead directly to the Civil War. 
The nomination of their respective parties for the 
presidency had been practically conceded to Clay and 
Van Buren some time before the appearance of the Texas 
question. With this event, and with the date for the 
national conventions close at hand, both of the prospec- 
tive candidates for the presidency felt impelled to publish 
their views with reference to the new issue. Their 
letters, appearing on the same day, agreed also in ex- 
pressing opposition to immediate annexation. As a con- 
sequence, Van Buren lost the nomination and Clay lost 
the election. The Democratic convention assembled on 
May 27, one month after the appearance of Van Buren's 
letter, which had given deep offence in the South. Most 
of the delegates had been instructed to vote for Van 
Buren, but many of them were in a mood to disobey 
their instructions. With the adoption of the two-thirds 
rule, proposed by the opponents of Van Buren, his pros- 



xxviii BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

pects for securing the nomination vanished. Although 
far in the lead he lacked the necessary majority, and as 
ballot after ballot was taken the number of his supporters 
steadily dwindled. The pyschological moment had ar- 
rived for the introduction of the first "dark horse" on 
the stage of American politics. On the eighth ballot a 
new candidate appeared in the person of James K. Polk. 
On the next, a wild stampede ensued, as a result of which 
the dark horse received every vote and therewith the 
nomination. His opponent was the renowned Henry 
Clay, perhaps the best loved political leader in all 
American history; while Polk, spite of his long career 
in State and National politics, seems to have been com- 
paratively unknown to the country at large at the time 
of his nomination. The Whigs greeted his candidacy 
with derision, and the query "Who is Polk?" — ofttimes 
uttered in terms more ribald than refined — became their 
favorite war-cry. Judged by the result, however, this 
derision was hardly justified. Whatever Polk lacked in 
brilliancy was fully compensated by solid staying qualities 
of another sort, and in the end he was returned victor 
over his renowned opponent, and in due time transferred 
his residence to the White House. 

It was due in part to good fortune that Polk's presiden- 
tial term came at a time when several great political issues 
were pressing for settlement; but it was due chiefly to his 
ability as an administrator that the close of his term saw 
them all settled, and that too in the way he desired. 
Although predictions were freely made, even among 
Democratic politicians, that Polk would succeed only in 
making shipwreck of his administration, he signally be- 
lied them by giving to the country one of the most 
forceful administrations in its history. He took up the 
duties of the presidential office with a careful programme 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH xxix 

of what he intended to accomplish. This included the 
replacing of the protective tariff of 1842 with one for 
revenue only, the establishment of the independent 
treasury, the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute 
with Great Britain, the annexation of Texas, and the 
acquisition of California. Every part of this programme 
was carried to completion before the fourth of March, 
1 849 ; and of the master who guided the execution of these 
policies, George Bancroft, who, as a member of Polk's 
Cabinet, had excellent reasons for knowing whereof he 
spoke, has said: "His administration, viewed from the 
standpoint of results, was perhaps the greatest in our 
history. . . . He succeeded because he insisted on 
being its centre and in overruling and guiding all his 
secretaries to act so as to produce unity and harmony." 

The qualities to which Polk owed his success as an 
administrator are easily discernible. Foremost among 
them, perhaps, should be mentioned his talent for in- 
dustry. The Diary gives abundant evidence of this. 
Throughout his presidential term he toiled incessantly. 
In the first seventeen months of his term his single ab- 
sence from Washington consisted of a one-day trip to 
Mount Vernon. Prior to the ten-day vacation from his 
duties at Washington taken in the Summer of 1848 he 
records that in a period of thirteen months he had not 
been three miles distant from the Capitol; and a pe- 
rusal of the Diary leads one to agree with him in the 
assertion that he was the hardest worked man in the 
country. 

To this quality of industry must be added Polk's high 
reputation for consistency as a party man. Early in his 
public career he made Thomas Jefferson his political pole- 
star and throughout his career adhered to the principles 
of the founder of the Republican party with unswerving 



xxx BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

fidelity; and the knowledge of this fidelity operated to 
strengthen his control over his followers in the years 
when he was the official head of his party. 

Spite of these things Polk's administration would still 
have failed of success had he been lacking in the qualities 
of leadership essential to the occupant of the presiden- 
tial chair. Thoroughly familiar, by reason of his prior 
experience, with the conduct of affairs in the legislative 
branch of the government, he achieved results as Presi- 
dent, because, as the Diary makes evident, he insisted on 
being the centre of his administration. He was decidedly 
the master of his Cabinet, not permitting even the ablest 
of its members to assume the reins of leadership. Ap- 
parently he knew not the meaning of fear, and when once 
a given policy had been decided upon he set about its 
execution with a tenacity of purpose that yielded to no 
obstacle however great it might appear to be. ) 

This singleness of purpose contributed alike to the 
immediate success of Polk's policies and to the troubles 
which pressed upon him during the greater part of his 
administration. Having set before himself the achieve- 
ment of a definite programme, he pressed forward to the 
goal, undeterred by, because oblivious of, any possible 
evil consequences which might result indirectly there- 
from. To this narrowness of vision and of purpose is to 
be ascribed Polk's greatest shortcoming as a statesman. 
Because of it he totally failed to perceive the relation 
between his policy of territorial expansion and the rising 
tide of agitation over slavery. He proceeded with iron 
resolution in the execution of his programme, unmindful 
of the mutterings of anti-slavery protest. When he 
asked Congress for an appropriation of two million 
dollars, to be devoted, as every one knew, to the acquisi- 
tion of territory from Mexico, the storm broke. The 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH xxxi 

Wilmot Proviso was coupled to the bill for the desired 
appropriation ; and therewith began an agitation over the 
slavery issue which continued without cessation until the 
Compromise of 1850, and which, long before the termina- 
tion of Polk's administration, caused him to fear for 
the stability of the Union. A man of broader vision 
than Polk possessed might have foreseen that this would 
be the inevitable result of his policy of territorial ex- 
pansion; yet he had precipitated this final phase of the 
slavery dispute all unwittingly. "What connection slav- 
ery has to do with the making of peace with Mexico it is 
impossible to see," is the reiterated plaint of the Diary. 
The mere schoolboy has no trouble to-day in perceiving 
the connection. 

The momentous years of Polk's administration ran their 
course, bringing to him the consciousness of duty faith- 
fully performed, and of a successful execution of pre- 
conceived policies; but, these things aside, they brought 
him little of happiness or content. To the cares of office 
and of incessant toil were added the constant annoyance 
of office-seekers and the worry which resulted from a 
state of physical ill-health. At the time of his election 
to the presidency Polk was younger by several years 
than any preceding occupant of that office had been, but 
during his four years' tenure of it he aged greatly in 
appearance. Observers speak of his "haggard look" and 
of his "venerable appearance," and when he retired to 
private life, though only fifty-four years of age, his "flow- 
ing gray locks" imparted the appearance of a much older 
man. 

On the expiration of his term of office Polk returned to 
Tennessee, his journey being a veritable triumphal pro- 
cession. In anticipation of his return to private life he 
had purchased the residence in Nashville which had be- 



xxxii BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

longed to his former legal tutor, Felix Grundy. Here 
he planned to pass the remainder of his life in dignified 
retirement after the example which had been set by some 
of the more notable of his predecessors. But a period 
was soon put alike to his plans and his life. Much of 
the homeward journey had been made through a region 
that was being subjected to the ravages of the cholera. 
This, in conjunction with the fatigues of the trip and the 
enervated physical condition of Polk, predisposed him to 
the attack of a long-standing complaint. A few weeks 
were spent in the improvement of his estate, when he 
was seized with an illness which terminated fatally on 
June 15. Less than four months elapsed, therefore, 
from the time when he resigned the duties of the 
presidency until he laid down the cares of life. He was 
buried in a tomb before the house on the grounds of his 
estate, where the remains rested until they were removed, 
a few years since, to the State Capitol, their present 
resting-place. 

M. M. Quaife. 



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DIARY OF 

JAMES K. POLK 



HP 



VOLUME I. 

UESDAY, 26th August, 1845.— Memoran- 
dum of a conversation in Cabinet, Mr. 

-*- Mason, the Attorney General, being absent 
on a visit to Virginia. 

The President inquired of Mr. Buchanan at what 
time his reply to the official note of Mr. Pakenham, 
the Brittish Minister, on the subject of the pending 
Oregon negotiation, dated 29th July, 1845, would 
be ready to be submitted to the Cabinet. Mr. Bu- 
chanan replied that when he was sent for by the 
President to attend the cabinet meeting that morn- 
ing, he was engaged in preparing his reply, and 
could finish the first rough draft in ten minutes: 
except the conclusion, which would contain the final 
action of the President which was most important. 

Other matters then came up for consideration the 
principal of which related to our army under the 
command of Gen'l Taylor in Texas, and the proper 
means of defending that territory against the threat- 
ened invasion by Mexico. 

The President again called up the Oregon ques- 
tion. He remarked that he had at different times 



2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Aug. 

communicated to the several members of the Cab- 
inet, the settled decision to which his mind had 
come. He proceeded briefly to repeat his decision, in 
substance as follows, viz., that Mr. Buchanan's note 
in reply to Mr. Pakenham should assert and enforce 
our right to the whole Oregon territory from 42 to 
54 40' North Latitude ; that he should distinctly state 
that the proposition which had been made to com- 
promise on the 49th paralel of North Latitude had 
been made, first in deference to what had been done 
by our predecessors, and second with an anxious de- 
sire to preserve peace between the two countries. 
That this proposition, made as it was for the reasons 
stated & in a liberal spirit of compromise, had been 
rejected by the Brittish Minister in language, to say 
the least of it, scarcely courteous or respectful, and 
that, too, without submitting any counter proposition 
on his part, was now withdrawn by the U. States, and 
should no longer be considered as pending for the 
consideration of the Brittish Government. The 
President said in summing [up] the reasons which he 
assigned for this decision, let the argument of our 
title to the whole country be full, let the proposition 
to compromise at latitude 49 be withdrawn, and then 
let the matter rest, unless the Brittish Minister chose 
to continue the negotiation. Mr. Buchanan said 
that he assented to the views of the President so far 
as the argument of title and withdrawal of our 
proposition to compromise at 49 were concerned, 
but that he thought a paragraph [should] be in- 
serted to the effect that any further proposition 
which the Brittish Minister might submit, would be 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3 

deliberately considered by the United States. To 
this the President objected upon the ground that our 
proposition for 49 ° had been rejected flatly, without 
even a reference by the Brittish Minister to his Gov- 
ernment. This had been done in a most unceremo- 
nious [manner] and in terms scarcely courteous or 
respectfully, and we had been in substance told, the 
Brittish Government will not even consider your 
proposition and you must make another more consist- 
ent with fairness and equity. Now if we withdraw 
our proposition, as it is agreed we shall, and at the 
same [time] give a formal invitation to the Brittish 
Minister to make a proposition on his part, assuring 
him at the same time that when made it shall be de- 
liberately considered, what will be the inevitable & 
irresistible inference? Why, that we are prepared 
to accept terms less favourable to the U. S. than the 
49 , for it cannot be expected under such an invita- 
tion, that terms less favourable] to Great Brittain 
than 49 which she has already [rejected] will be 
proposed by the Brittish Minister. Any proposition 
less favourable than 49 the President said he would 
promptly reject. Why then invite a proposition 
which cannot for a moment be entertained. Let our 
proposition be absolutely withdrawn & then let the 
Brittish Minister take his own course. If he chooses 
to close the negotiation he can do so. If he chooses to 
make a proposition he can as well do it without our 
invitation as with it. Let him take the one course or 
the other, the U. States will stand in the right in the 
eyes of the whole civilized world, and if war was the 
consequence England would be in the wrong. The 



4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Aug. 

President further remarked that he had reflected 
much on this subject; that it had occupied his 
thoughts more than any and all others during his ad- 
ministration, and that though he had given his assent 
to the proposition to compromise at 49 , he must say 
he did not regret that it had been rejected by the Brit- 
tish Minister. We had shown by it our anxious desire 
to do full justice to Great Brittain and to preserve 
peace, but it having been rejected he felt no longer 
bound by it, & would not be now willing to compro- 
mise on that boundary. Mr. Buchanan then inti- 
mated that if the President's views were carried out, 
we would have war. To which the President re- 
plied, if we do have war it will not be our fault. Mr. 
Buchanan said that war would probably be the result 
ultimately, but he expressed the opinion that the peo- 
ple of the U. S. would not be willing to sustain a war 
for the country North of 49 , and that if we were to 
have war he would like for it to be for some better 
cause, for some of our rights of person or property 
or of National honour violated. The President dif- 
fered with Mr. B. as to the popular sentiment, and 
he thought we had the strongest evidence that was to 
be anywhere seen that the people would be prompt 
and ready to sustain the Government in the course 
which he proposed to pursue. 

Mr. Buchanan then had allusion to our difficulties 
with Mexico, and thought his reply to Mr. Paken- 
ham ought to be postponed until we could know 
whether we would have actual war with that country 
or not. The President said he saw no necessary con- 
nection between the two questions ; that the settlement 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 5 

of the one was not dependent on the other; that we 
should do our duty towards both Mexico and Great 
Brittain and firmly maintain our rights, & leave the 
rest to God and the country. Mr. Buchanan said he 
thought God would not have much to do in justify- 
ing us in a war for the country North of 49 . Mr. 
Buchanan then suggested that his reply should be 
postponed until late in September. The President 
objected to this. He said that a postponement would 
carry the idea to Great Brittain as well as to our own 
people, of hesitancy and indecision on our part, 
which so far as his opinions were concerned would be 
an erroneous inference. He said Mr. Pakenham's 
note was delivered on the 29th of July, 1845. Nearly 
a month had now elapsed, and he thought it proper 
if not indispensible that the response should be made 
with the least possible delay. He said it was un- 
necessary to wait for further information from Eng- 
land, that it was not likely the Brinish Minister 
would make other communication until the response 
to Mr. Pakenham's note of July 29th was made; that 
at all events we had Mr. Pakenham's note before us, 
and should meet it promptly. 

The conversation took a somewhat extended range, 
viewing the question in the different aspects which it 
presented, but upon the main points in substance as 
stated above. The Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. 
Walker) made some observations in substance sustain- 
ing the views taken by the President. The Secretary 
of War (Mr. Marcy) made a few remarks in the 
course of the conversation, but expressed no distinct 
opinion. The Secretary of the Navy (Mr. Ban- 



6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Aug. 

croft) and the Post Master Gen'l (Mr. Johnson) 
said nothing. 

When the Cabinet were about dispersing, the 
President remarked to Mr. Buchanan that as [soon 
as] he could be prepared to submit his paper, em- 
bracing the views which he (the President) had 
stated, he desired to have a special meeting of the 
Cabinet to consider of it, before it was delivered to 
the Brittish Minister. Mr. Buchanan said he sup- 
posed he would be ready to submit it on Thursday, 
the 28th Aug., 1845, to which the President said, can 
you not have it ready to-morrow (27th) remarking, 
I understand that Mr. Pakenham will return from 
the North to-morrow, and he desired to have it de- 
livered to him as soon as possible; to which Mr. Bu- 
chanan assented. The President then gave notice 
that there would be a special meeting of the Cabinet 
to-morrow, the 27th Aug., at 12 O'Clock. 

The Cabinet then left the room, except the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury (Mr. Walker) who remained 
a few minutes conversing with the President on the 
subject, and concurring with him fully in all the 
views he had expressed in Cabinet. 

Wednesday, 27th August, 1845. — A special 
meeting of the Cabinet was held at twelve O'Clock, 
Mr. Mason, the atto. Gen'l, being absent. The Sec- 
retary of State (Mr. Buchanan) read the letter which 
he had prepared in answer to the note of the Brit- 
tish Minister of the 29th July, 1845, on the Ore- 
gon question. 1 When the reading was concluded 

1 For the general history of the Oregon question, see Robert 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 7 

the President expressed the opinion that it was 
an able and admirable paper, and that the argu- 
ment in support of the American title was con- 
clusive and unanswerable. In this opinion all the 
members of the Cabinet concurred. The Post- 
Master Gen'l remarked that if he had heard that 
argument before the compromise at 49 ° was proposed 
he would not have agreed to it. Some conversation 
took place upon the closing paragraphs of the paper 
by which the proposition of 49 ° as [a] compromise 
line was withdrawn. The President requested the 
Secretary of State to leave that part of the paper with 
him for examination until the next day. The Secre- 
tary of State again expressed the opinion that its de- 
livery to the Brittish Minister should be postponed 
for some time to come; to which the President ob- 

Greenhow, Memoir on the Northwest Coast of North America, 
published as S. Doc. 174, 26 Cong. 1 Sess., and, by the same au- 
thor, History of Oregon and California, Boston, 1844; Travers 
Twiss, The Oregon Question, London, 1846; Garrison, West- 
ward Extension, in the American Nation series, New York, 1906, 
and Jesse S. Reeves, American Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk, 
Baltimore, 1 907. A summary of the negotiations, 18 18-1842, is 
contained in Buchanan's instructions to McLane, Moore, Works 
of James Buchanan, VI., 186-194, and in S. Doc. 489, 29 Cong. 
1 Sess. The correspondence, 18 18-1827, is in Am. State Papers, 
Foreign, V., 553-564, VI., 641-706; 1842-1846, in British and 
Foreign State Papers, XXXIV., 49-145, and S. Doc. 1, 29 Cong. 
1 Sess., H. Ex. Docs. 2, 105, 221, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. Reports of 
committees, resolutions of State legislatures, and petitions ad- 
dressed to Congress may be found by consulting the Table of and 
Annotated Index to the Congressional Series of United States 
Public Documents. 



8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Aug. 

jected and said he wished it delivered as soon as it 
could be copied. The Cabinet dispersed. 

The same evening the President and Secretary of 
the Navy rode out on horseback. The Secretary in 
the course of the ride said he admired the President's 
firmness on the Oregon question & added: "I 
will now go with you, I believe you are right." 

THURSDAY, 28th August, 1845. — The President 
suggested to the Secretary of State some verbal mod- 
ifications in the closing paragraphs of the Secretary's 
letter on Oregon in reply to the Brittish Minister, 
most of which were made. Mr. Buchanan again sug- 
gested the propriety of postponing its delivery to the 
Brittish Minister to a later day, to which the Presi- 
dent objected as heretofore. The paragraphs which 
had been detained for examination by the President, 
with the verbal amendments, made in Mr. B.'s hand- 
writing at the President's suggestion, were delivered 
to Mr. B., who said on leaving the President's office 
that the whole would be copied and ready for de- 
livery by to-morrow at 12 O'Clock. 

FRIDAY, 2Qth August, 184S. — The President 
called a special meeting of the Cabinet at 12 O'Clock, 
all the members present except Mr. Mason. The 
President brought up for consideration our relations 
with Mexico, 1 and the threatened invasion of Texas 

1 Upon the general subject of the relations between the United 
States and Mexico before 1845 see Moore, History and Digest of 
the International Arbitrations to which the United States has been 
a party, etc., II., 1209-1247, published as H. Misc. Doc. 212, 53 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIART 9 

with [by] that power. He submitting the follow- 
ing propositions which were unanimously agreed to 
as follows, viz., If Mexico should declare War or 
actual hostilities should be commenced by that 
power, orders to be issued to Gen'l Taylor to attack 
and drive her back across the Del Norte. Gen'l Tay- 
lor shall be instructed that the crossing the Del 
Norte by a Mexican army in force shall be regarded 
as an act of War on her part, and in that event Gen'l 
Taylor to be ordered, if he shall deem it advisable, 
not to wait to be attacked but to attack her army 
first. Gen'l Taylor in case of invasion by Mexico 
to be ordered not only to drive the invading army 
back to the west of the Del Norte, but to dislodge 
and drive back in like manner the Mexican post 
now stationed at Santiago. Gen'l Taylor to be 
vested with discretionary authority to pursue the 
Mexican army to the West of the Del Norte, and 
take Matamoras or any other Spanish Post West of 
that River, but not to penetrate any great distance 
into the interior of the Mexican Territory. 

Commodore Conner l commanding the Home 

Cong. 2 Sess. To this may be added H. Doc. 139, 24 Cong. 
2 Sess., H. Doc. 351, 25 Cong. 2 Sess., S. Doc. 1, 28 Cong. 1 
Sess. Important documents for the period of Polk's administra- 
tion are H. Report, 752, 29 Cong. 1 Sess., S. Doc. 1, 29 Cong. 2 
Sess., S. Ex. Doc. 1, 30 Cong. 1 Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 60, 30 Cong. 
1 Sess, S. Ex. Doc. 52, 30 Cong. 1 Sess. Moore, Works of 
James Buchanan, VI., VII., contain some documents hitherto un- 
published or published only in part. Many others may be found 
by reference to the Table of and Annotated Index to the Con- 
gressional Series of United States Public Documents. 

1 David Conner of Pennsylvania, 1 792-1 856. Extracts from 
his orders are published in H. Ex. Doc. 4, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 



io JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Aug. 

Squadron in the Gulf to be ordered, on hearing that 
war existed as above described, to Blockade all Mex- 
ican ports on the Gulf, to attack and take them 
if deemed practicable; except of Yucatan and To- 
basco, 1 which Departments it is reported refuse 
to take part in the threatened war against Texas or 
the U. States. These he is to visit at Campeache 
and Tobasco, communicate with the inhabitants and 
inform them that they should not be molested, 
provided they would agree to take no part in the 
war. 

These orders it was agreed should be prepared by 
the Secretaries of War and the Navy to be submit- 
ted to the Cabinet on to-morrow. 

Mr. Buchanan, after agreeing to these proposi- 
tions, left, and the conversation continued but did 
not change these results or conclusions. 

The President inquired of Mr. Buchanan as he 
was leaving the room, if Mr. Pakenham, 2 the Brittish 
Minister, had returned to Washington, to which he 
replied that he had. The President said that he 
was glad of it, as he wished Mr. Buchanan's answer 
to his note of 29th July, '45, delivered to him as soon 
as possible. 

Mr. Buchanan stated to the President in the 
course of the meeting that he had added two para- 
graphs to his letter to Mr. Pakenham, since it had 
been submitted to the President in Cabinet: the 

1 H. H. Bancroft, History of Mexico, V., chapters 9, 10. 

2 Sir Richard Pakenham, British Minister to Mexico 1835— 
1843, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at Wash- 
ington 1 844- 1 847. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY n 

first was, that though the U. S. had refused to yield 
the free navigation of the Columbia River to Great 
Brittain, yet they had offered her [a] free port on 
the extreme Southern point of Vancouver's Island: 
the second stated the fact, that a recent Globe pub- 
lished in England represented the Northern bound- 
ary of the U. S. West of the Rocky Mountains, as 
extending to the 54 parallel of North Latitude. 
The President approved both the alterations. They 
were stated to the President verbally by Mr. B. and 
were not submitted in writing. 

SATURDAY, 30th August, 1845. — The Cabinet met 
to-day, the atto. Gen'l still absent. The Secretary 
of State came in at half -past 12 O'Clock. He stated 
that he had just delivered his letter in answer to that 
of the Brittish Minister of the 29th July, 1845, to Mr. 
Bidwell, the Secretary of the Brittish Legation, Mr. 
Pakenham, the Brittish Minister, being still absent 
from Washington. Mr. Buchanan stated that he 
had informed the President, at the last meeting of 
the Cabinet, that Mr. Pakenham had returned, but 
he had ascertained that he had been wrongly in- 
formed. He was expected back on to-morrow or 
next day. He stated that he had informed Mr. Bid- 
well that he would retain his answer until his return, 
if Mr. Bidwell desired it, and that Mr. Bidwell re- 
plied, if it was ready it could be delivered to him for 
the Minister, and that it was delivered accordingly. 
Mr. Buchanan said; "Well, the Deed is done," but 
[that] he did not think it was the part of wise states- 
manship to deliver such a paper in the existing state 



12 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Aug. 

of our relations with Mexico. The President said 
he was glad it was delivered, that it was right in itself 
and he saw no reason for delaying it because of our 
relations with Mexico. 

A long conversation then took place in Cabinet in 
relation to instructions proper to be given to Gen'l 
Taylor commanding our " army of occupation " in 
Texas, and to Commodore Conner, commanding our 
Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico. These being 
agreed upon, the Secretaries of War and the Navy 
[retired] to correct or amend the drafts which they 
presented, to forward them on to-morrow. 

SUNDAY night, Jlst August, 1845. — Col. El- 
dridge, late Chief Clerk of the Department of State 
in Texas, was despatched as an express messenger 
with orders from the War and Navy Departments to 
Gen'l Taylor in Texas and Commodore Conner in 
the Gulf of Mexico. These orders had been re- 
solved upon in Cabinet meeting on Saturday, 30th 
Aug't, but could not be prepared and a suitable 
messenger could not be procured to bear them until 
Sunday evening. Duplicate copies of the same or- 
ders were forwarded by mail to Pensacola & New 
Orleans addressed to Naval & Military officers at 
those stations. 

MONDAY, 1st September, 1845. — Senator Bagby * 
of Alabama called to-day and held a long conversa- 
tion with the President. The President asked his 

1 Arthur Pendleton Bagby, 1794-1858, Senator from Alabama 
1841-1848. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 13 

opinion as to the necessity or propriety of calling 
Congress, in the event of a Declaration of War or an 
invasion of Texas by Mexico. Mr. Bagby gave it as 
his clear opinion that Congress should not be called, 
and assigned his reasons at some length. Mr. Bagby 
took occasion at the close of the conversation to ex- 
press his approbation of the course of the adminis- 
tration, and to declare his intention to give to it a 
zealous and hearty support. 

Mr. Senator Archer 1 of Va. called the same 
day and paid his respects to the President in his of- 
fice. The subject of the existing relations with 
Mexico was spoken of. Mr. Archer expressed the 
opinion that Mexico would neither declare war nor 
invade Texas. The Military and Naval preparations 
which had been made by the administration were 
spoken [of] and Mr. Archer concurred in an opin- 
ion, expressed by the President, that the appearance 
of our land and naval forces on the borders of Mex- 
ico & in the Gulf would probably deter and prevent 
Mexico from either declaring war or invading Texas. 
Mr. Archer expressed no disapprobation of these 
military and Naval preparations, but [spoke] of them 
in a manner to leave the unquestionable inference 
that he approved the steps which had been taken in 
this respect. 

TUESDAY, 2nd September, 1845. — A regular 
meeting of the Cabinet was held to-day, all the mem- 
bers present except the Attorney General. The Sec- 

1 William S. Archer, 1789-1855, Senator from Virginia 1841- 
1847. 



i 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Sept. 

retary of War stated that the U. S. troops which 
had been ordered from the Eastern Posts for Texas 
had arrived at New York on Saturday, [the] 30th 
Aug't, and were detained at that City waiting for the 
store ship Lexington to be ready to sail. 

The President inquired of the Secretary of the 
Navy what detained the Lexington, and why she had 
not gone to sea; remarking [to him] at the same time 
that the Secretary had stated on Saturday last, that 
she was ready for sea. The Secretary stated that the 
officer ordered to take command of her had not re- 
ported himself; that the order was sent to him by 
mail a distance of some 30 miles in Virginia, where 
he was understood to be; and that, fearing it might 
not reach [him], orders had been sent to New York, 
to the commanding officer there not to detain the 
Lexington an hour after the arrival of the troops 
who were to go on board of her, but to order some 
officer at New York to take command of her & 
sail. The President then directed that a letter 
should be written to New York ordering that she 
should be put under the command of a proper officer 
& that she should sail with the troops without a 
moment's delay. The President further directed the 
Secretary to take immediate steps to ascertain the 
causes of delay and whose fault it was, and that if it 
was ascertained that any officer had disobeyed the 
previous [order] or been guilty of unreasonable de- 
lay in executing it that he be immediately arrested, 
and tried by a Court Martial. The President re- 
marked that the country had been so long at peace, 
and that many of the officers of the Navy and Army 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 15 

had, he apprehended, become so fond of their ease 
& personal comfort that it was necessary that they 
should be taught their duty by enforcing the most 
rigid discipline. 

The President brought up for consideration to-day 
the question, in the event Mexico should issue letters 
of marque, in what manner foreign vessels or foreign 
commanders & crews, other than those of Mexico, 
when taken on the high seas sailing under the Mex- 
ican flag and acting under letters of marque from 
Mexico, were to be treated. It was stated that the 
French, and perhaps other nations, under like cir- 
cumstances would treat them as pirates and execute 
them summarily. After discussing the question, it 
was decided that under our laws persons so taken on 
board privateers should be sent to the U. S. for 
trial. 

Wednesday, 3rd September, 184s. — The Secre- 
tary of the Navy reported that he had information 
from New York that the ship Lexington would leave 
that port with U. S. troops on board for Gen'l Tay- 
lor's camp at Corpus Christi in Texas, on Tuesday 
morning, the 2nd Inst., at daylight. 

Had many visitors to-day, mostly office seekers. 
Among them was a man named Emanuel Fisher, 
who had repeatedly called on me before to be ap- 
pointed keeper of a Light House on the Lakes and 
had been as repeatedly referred to the Secretary of 
the Treasury, who was charged by the law with the 
appointment of such officers. On being informed 
again that I would not interfere in such appoint- 



16 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Sept. 

ments, but would leave them to the Secretary of the 
Treasury, where the law had placed them, he acted 
and spoke rudely & insolently; when I told him I 
did not desire to be insulted in my own office, and 
he retired. For a more detailed statement of the 
case of this man, I refer to my endorsement of this 
date on a letter which he handed to me, written by 
him, and which I have directed to be placed on my 
files. Several persons were in the office at the time 
and among them Gov. Pierce M. Butler of S. C. 
I think, but am not certain, that Mr. Thistle, late 
timber agent in Florida, and an elderly man from 
Norfolk seeking a lieutenancy for his son in the 
Revenue service were also in the office. 

Gov. Pierce M. Butler, 1 late Cherokee Agent, 
called again at eight O'Clock P. M. and expressed 
himself [as] entirely satisfied, that I had appointed 
Col. James McKissick of Arkansas as cherokee agent 
in his place, at the expiration of his term. 

Jonathan D. Stephenson of New York called in the 
course of the day and expressed himself satisfied with 
the appointment of Michael Hoffman as Naval Offi- 
cer at New York, a place which he had sought and 
for which he had been strongly recommended. 

I expressed to Gov. Butler and Mr. Stephenson 
my satisfaction that their conduct was in honorable 
contrast with many other disappointed office seek- 
ers, who, when they had failed to succeed, became 
excited and dissatisfied with the administration. 

fierce M. Butler, 1 798-1 847, Colonel of the Palmetto Regi- 
ment of South Carolina in the Mexican War, killed at Cherubusco. 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 17 

Thursday, 4th September, 1845. — Nothing 
worthy of note transpired to-day. 

FRIDAY, 5th September, 1845. — Do. 

SATURDAY, 6th September, 1845. — A regular meet- 
ing of the Cabinet was held to-day, all the members 
present except the Attorney General. 

The President laid before the Cabinet a letter [of] 
appointment from the President of Texas (by Mr. 
Allen, Secretary of State of Texas) to Mr. Lee * as 
acting Charge d'affaires of Texas to the U. States. 
He also laid before the Cabinet the instructions of 
the President of Texas to Mr. Lee which had been 
furnished by Mr. Lee to Mr. Buchanan. Be- 
fore these papers were read Mr. Buchanan was 
called to the State Department to see Mr. Rhett 2 
of S. C. (who was in waiting for him as he was in- 
formed by a messenger) to deliver to him despatches 
of which he was the bearer from Mr. McLane, 3 the 
U. S. Minister at London. During Mr. Buchanan's 
absence of half an hour the President read to the 
Cabinet Mr. Lee's letter of appointment, and instruc- 
tions. The President expressed his opinion to be 
against receiving Mr. Lee in his diplomatic charac- 
ter, and the Cabinet were engaged in conversation 
on the subject when Mr. Buchanan returned. The 
President informed Mr. Buchanan that the papers 

1 W. D. Lee, Moore, Buchanan, VI., 254. 

2 Robert Barnwell Rhett, 1800- 1866, member of Congress from 
South Carolina 1 837-1 849. 

3 Louis McLane of Delaware, 1 786—1857, minister to England 
1829-1831, and 1845-1846. 



18 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Sept. 

had been read to the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan had, 
on presenting Mr. Lee's application to the President 
to be accredited as Charge d'affaires of Texas to 
the United States two days ago, intimated the opinion 
that Texas was so far to be regarded as an independ- 
ent Nation as to make it proper to receive Mr. Lee 
as her accredited Minister to this Government. The 
President in a short note to Mr. Buchanan had ex- 
pressed a different opinion. The President repeated 
that opinion in substance as follows. He said after 
what had transpired he could not regard Texas as a 
foreign State. Texas by her Congress and Conven- 
tion * had, in the most solemn forms, accepted the 
terms of annexation offered to her by the U. States; 
that from that moment the compact of Union be- 
tween Texas & the U. States was complete, and 
that he considered Texas as being now virtually a 
part of our own country. We had so treated Texas 
by sending our squadron to the Gulf and our army 
to her Western border, to defend her territory & 
people against the threatened Mexican invasion. If 
we now receive a foreign Minister from Texas, we 
recognize her as a foreign State, and it would be dif- 
ficult to justify the sending our army into her terri- 
tory to defend her, claiming it to be a part of our own 

1 The Congress of Texas met in special session, June 16, 1845, 
for the consideration of the joint resolution of annexation, adopted 
by the U. S. Congress. The Convention of Texas passed an or- 
dinance accepting the joint resolution, July 4, and completed the 
constitution of the State of Texas, August 27, 1845. The ordi- 
nance and constitution were ratified by a popular election October 
13, 1845. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 19 

country. The President asked Mr. Buchanan if we 
received and accredited this Minister, if we could 
make a Treaty with him. To which Mr. B. replied 
we could, but it could only last until the act of Con- 
gress was passed admitting Texas as one of the States 
of the Union. The President remarked, if we re- 
ceived this Minister, we must to all intents and pur- 
poses admit that Texas was a foreign State, and so re- 
garding her, if we could make a Treaty for a limited 
time with her there would be nothing to restrain us 
from making any other Treaty with her; and that, in 
either case, it would be wholly inconsistent with the 
ground which the Cabinet had unanimously taken 
when it was ordered to send our army into Texas to 
defend her, regarding her as a part of our own coun- 
try & the faith of the country pledged to protect 
and defend her} All the Cabinet concurred with 
the President in these views ; the Secretary of War 
expressing himself strongly on the subject. Mr. Bu- 
chanan said although his opinion was unchanged he 
would not insist upon it. A conversation of some 
length took place, when it was agreed that the Minis- 
ter (Mr. Lee) could not be received & accredited 
as charge d'affaires. The President, with the con- 
currence of the Cabinet, directed that Mr. Buchanan 
should address a letter to Mr. Lee, in courteous & 
friendly terms, explaining to him why he could not 
be recognized in the official character of charge 
de affaires but that the Government would confer 
with him as the agent of Texas, as they would with 
the agent of one of the States of the Union having 
business at Washington; that any information he 



20 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Sept. 

desired to communicate would be received, and in 
turn any information deemed important to Texas 
or relating to annexation would be communicated to 
him. 

SUNDAY, yth September, 1 845. — Mrs. Polk and 
the President attended the first Presbyterian church. 
On returning from church about one O'Clock P. M. 
received a note from Mr. Buchanan, covering a 
rough sketch of a letter to Mr. Lee of Texas, in- 
forming him that he would not be received and ac- 
credited as charge d'affaires. Wrote a note to Mr. 
Buchanan suggesting two alterations in his pro- 
posed note to Mr. Lee. (See Mr. B.'s note & the 
President's reply.) Attended the first Presbyterian 
church with Mrs. Polk at 4 O'Clock P. M. when 
the Sacrament of the Lord's supper was administered. 

At Sy 2 O'Clock P. M. Gen'l R. Jones, 1 adjutant 
General of the army, called with dispatches re- 
ceived by a messenger to-night from Gen'l Taylor, 
commanding the " army of occupation " in Texas, 
of date the 26th Aug't, 1845, as also communications 
from Gen'l Taylor of prior date. 

MONDAY, 8th September, 1845. — A Delegation 
of Five Indians from the six nations of N. York 
had an audience with the President & presented 
their grievances, accompanied by an application for 
600 [members] of these tribes to migrate West of the 

1 Roger Jones of Virginia, entered the army as Captain of Ar- 
tillery 1812, Colonel and Adjutant-General 1825, Major-General 
1848. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 21 

Mississippi. The President held a talk with them 
through their Interpreter, a part of them only speak- 
ing English. The President promised them to read 
their papers, and appointed to-morrow at 2 O'Clock 
P. M. to see them again and give them an answer. 

TUESDAY, Qth September, 1845. — The Cabinet 
met to-day, the attorney General being still absent. 
The rough rice question, 1 or the violation by Great 
Brittain of the commercial Treaty between that 
country & the U. States by levying and collecting 
higher and other duties on rough Rice imported 
from the U. S. into Great Brittain, than on the like 
article imported from the Western coast of Africa, 
was considered. The Cabinet were unanimously of 
opinion that the Treaty had been violated. It was 
stated by the Secretary of State that the excess of 
duties thus collected was ascertained to be between 
£88,000 and £89,000 sterling. It appeared that 
Great Brittain claimed indemnity for an alleged 
violation of the same treaty by the U. S. by the 25th 
Section of the Tariff act of 1842; in this, that a dis- 
crimination was made in favour of goods shipped 
prior to 1st Sept., 1845, from places East of the Cape 
of Goodhope, and beyond Cape Horn, over the like 
articles shipped from Great Brittain prior to the 
same day. After discussion the Cabinet was of opin- 
ion that the tariff act of 1842 was a violation of the 
Treaty in this respect; and it was referred to the 
Secretary of the Treasury to ascertain & report the 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI., 317-318. H. Ex. Doc. 169, 29 Cong. 
1 Sess. 5. S. Doc. 1, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 220-222, 231-234. 



22 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Sept. 

amt. of excess which had been collected. It was 
understood that when the amt. was ascertained, 
Mr. McLane, our Minister at London, should be 
instructed to adjust the claims on both Sides if prac- 
ticable. 

The Secretary of State laid before the President 
a letter addressed to the President by the King of 
the Sandwich Islands, complaining of the conduct 
of Mr. Brown, the U. S. Commissioner accredited 
at his Court, and requesting that he might be recalled. 

WEDNESDAY, I Oth September, 1845. — The Presi- 
dent signed a letter addressed to the King * of the 
Sandwich Islands, in answer to one addressed to him 
by the King, informing him that Mr. Brown had 
been recalled, and Mr. Anthony Ten Eyck ap- 
pointed commissioner in his place. He informed 
the King that he had authorized Mr. Ten Eyck to 
make a commercial Treaty with his Government. 

Had another interview with the Delegation from 
the six Nations of Indians in New York, in which 
it was agreed that [if] as many as 250 [members] of 
their tribes would agree to emigrate to their country 
West of [the] Missouri this Fall, the U. S. would re- 
move them. It was agreed, also, that a Treaty should 
be held with the Oneidas (who were represented in 
the delegation) of Greenbay, for a cession of their 
lands to the U. States, with the view to their emigra- 
tion to the same country West of the Missouri. After 
the talk was over Kusick, a Tuscarora Chief, pre- 

1 Kamehameha III., 1833-1854. For Ten Eyck's instructions 
see Moore, Buchanan, VI., 255. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 23 

sented a bead bag from his wife to Mrs. Polk, and a 
small bead pocket-book to the President. The Chiefs 
by their request were conducted to Mrs. Polk's par- 
lour and introduced [to] her. They appeared to be 
much gratified at the manner in which their business 
had been settled. In their talk they addressed the 
President as their Great Father, and Mrs. Polk as 
their Great Mother. 

Mr. O'Sullivan, 1 Editor of the Democratic Re- 
view & [the] New York News, called to-day in com- 
pany with Mr. Buchanan at the President's office. 
Mr. O'Sullivan read a paper, the object of which 
was to form a central committee at Washington, to 
raise by subscription a sum of $100,000 or more for 
the erection of a monument to the memory of Gen'l 
Jackson. It was proposed that this committee 
should consist of the President, the Vice President, 
the members of the Cabinet, and certain citizens who 
were named, numbering in all fifteen. The Presi- 
dent approved the object and said he would most 
cheerfully contribute the maximum sum allowed to 
be subscribed by any one individual, which was $100. 
Mr. Buchanan approved the proposition, and it 
was suggested that the gentlemen named should 
meet to confer on the subject at 2^ o'clock P. M. 
this day, and as the President could not with pro- 
priety attend a meeting elsewhere, that the meet- 
ing be [held] at his office. This was agreed to, about 
11 o'clock A.M. Afterwards Mr. Bancroft, Mr. 
Marcy, and Judge Mason, happening at the Presi- 

1 John L. O'Sullivan. Valentine, Manual of the Common 
Council, etc., 1 845-1 846, 241-243. 



24 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Sept. 

dent's office on other business, the subject was men- 
tioned. Judge Mason stated some reasons why the 
President & his Cabinet should not be prominent 
in the matter, one of which was that it might be at- 
tributed to a desire on their part to appropriate the 
great popularity of Gen'l Jackson, for the benefit of 
the administration and for party purposes. In this 
view Mr. Bancroft and Mr. Marcy concurred, as 
did the President. 

At the hour appointed, viz., 2^2 o'clock, P. M., 
the following persons convened at the President's 
office, viz., Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker, Mr. Marcy, 
Mr. Cave Johnson, Mr. Mason, Mr. O'Sullivan, 
Mr. Amos Kendall, Mr. Thomas Ritchie, Mr. As- 
bury Dickens, Secretary of the Senate, and Mr. B. 
B. French, Clerk of the Ho. Repts. ; when the paper 
was again read by Mr. O'Sullivan. The objections 
already detailed by Judge Mason were repeated 
by him more at length. Mr. Marcy & Mr. Walker 
concurred in them. Mr. Buchanan thought there 
was nothing in the objection, and said, as he was much 
engaged, he could sign the paper and retire. He 
did not, however, sign it. The President stated 
that the subject was new to him when first men- 
tioned by Mr. O'Sullivan this morning, that he 
was at the time much engaged, and had not reflected 
on the subject. He said that the objections stated 
subsequently had much weight in them, and that 
if there were doubts or division of opinion as to 
the propriety of his being by his own voluntary 
act at the head of the proposed committee, it was 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 25 

the part of prudence on his part not to occupy that 
position. He suggested that the citizens of the D. 
C. might, if they chose, organize such a committee, 
and he hoped [that they] would do so, and in that 
event, in his character as a private citizen, he would 
most cheerfully contribute the largest sum permitted 
to be subscribed by any one citizen. After some 
further conversation this course was understood to 
be agreed upon. Mr. Dickens said he would con- 
tribute, but did not desire to be one of the commit- 
tee. The Gentlemen then dispersed. 

THURSDAY, nth September, 1845, — Held an- 
other talk with the Delegation of New York Indians, 
the Secretary of War and Commissioner of Indian 
affairs being present. It was agreed to remove such 
of them as desired to emigrate, provided that the 
number was 250 or greater. The President in- 
formed them that he would appoint Dr. Hogeboom, 
who resided near them, as the agent to conduct the 
emigrating party, if he would accept. One of the 
chiefs (Kusick) said he knew him, and they all ex- 
pressed themselves satisfied with him. The Presi- 
dent informed them that he would appoint Gov. 
Dodge * of Wisconsin, to make a treaty with the 
Oneidas at Green Bay, with a view to purchase their 
lands and remove them also to the country West of 
[the] Missouri. With this they were well pleased. 

1 Henry Dodge, 1 782-1 867. Territorial delegate to Congress 
from Wisconsin 1841-1846; Territorial Governor 1846-1848, 
Senator from Wisconsin 1 848-1 857. 



26 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Sept. 

It was what they desired. The President told them 
that they would be furnished with $100, to pay their 
expenses to Washington. They expressed great 
gratification at the manner their business had been 
done, and their wishes gratified. 

Before leaving they visited Mrs. Polk in her par- 
lour, when she presented to Kusick a shawl for his 
wife and a gold breast pin for himself, in return for 
the bead bag and purse which he had presented to her 
on a former visit to the President's office on business. 

Saw the Secretary of War and commissioner of 
Indian affairs, when it was concluded to associate 
M. G. Lewis of Tenn. with Gov. Butler of S. C. as 
joint commissioners to visit the Comanche and other 
wild Indian tribes on the Western border of the U. 
S., with a view to hold a talk with them, make them 
some small presents, and if possible secure their 
friendship. This was deemed important at this time, 
especially if Mexico should declare war against the 
U. S. or invade Texas. The President afterwards 
saw Gov. Butler & Maj'r Lewis, and held a conver- 
sation with them on the subject of their mission. 

The President, in company with Judge Mason and 
the President's nephew and ward, Master Marshall 
T. Polk, visited Georgetown College, 1 where the 
President had determined to place M. T. Polk at 
school. The President paid to Mr. Mullody, the 
President of the college, $150 to pay his tuition, 
board, books, &c. for the next session, which was to 
commence on Monday, the 15th Sept., 1845. 

1 Founded by Bishop John Carroll of Maryland In 1789; 
opened in 1792; incorporated as Georgetown University, 18 15. 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 27 

Friday, 12th September, 1845. — At 10 O'Clock 
A. M. the Secretary of State presented to the Presi- 
dent, Cavalliero Gaspar Jose Lisboa, 1 as Envoy Ex- 
traordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary of Brazil to 
the United States. Mr. Lisboa delivered to the 
President his credentials from the Emperor 2 of Bra- 
zil, and made an address to the President giving as- 
surances of the friendly disposition of his Sovereign's 
Government towards the U. States. 

The President replied to Mr. Lisboa that he was 
pleased to learn that his Government had advanced 
him to the rank which he so well merited of Envoy 
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the 
United States. The President informed Mr. Lis- 
boa that during his residence here for several years 
past as charge d'affaires of his Government, he had 
become personally and favourably known to the mem- 
bers of the administration, and he was sure that no 
selection could have been made which would have 
been more agreeable and acceptable to them. 

The President requested Mr. Lisboa to express 
to his sovereign the gratification which it afforded 
the President to receive Mr. Lisboa in his charac- 
ter of Envoy Extraordinary & Minister Plenipoten- 
tiary, and to assure him of the anxious desire of the 
United States that the relations of amity and peace 
now subsisting between the two countries may be 
long continued. 

1 The Chevalier Gaspar Jose de Lisboa, Minister resident of 
Brazil at Washington, 1841-1845; Envoy Extraordinary and 
Minister Plenipotentiary, 1 845-1 847. 

2 Pedro II., Emperor of Brazil 1841-1889. 



28 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Sept. 

The " Old Defenders of Baltimore," 1 men who 
were engaged in the defence of that city on the 12th 
Sept., 1814, called at the President's Mansion to pay 
their respects. The President, accompanied by his 
Cabinet and the Hon. Mr. Levy 2 of the Senate of 
the U. S., received them in the circular parlour. An 
address on their behalf was delivered to the Presi- 
dent by Mr. Pressman, in which touching allusion 
was made to the battle at Baltimore on the 12th 
Sept., 1 8 14. The President made in substance the 
following response: He said he was most happy 
that he had the honour to salute the " Old Defend- 
ers of Baltimore." For their noble defence of the 
Monumental City they were entitled to the nation's 
gratitude. The patriotic demonstrations which their 
presence, on this the anniversary of that memorable 
occasion, was [were] well calculated to inspire, gave 
assurance that whenever their country called the 
citizen soldier would be ready to vindicate her 
honour and defend her rights against foreign ag- 
gression. The bulwark of our country's safety was 
to be found in the virtue, the intelligence, and pa- 
triotism of the great body of her citizens, who, 
though their habits, their pursuits, and their wishes 
were those of peace, would be ever ready at a mo- 

1 " Old Defenders of Baltimore," a patriotic society organized 
to commemorate the defence of Baltimore in the War of 18 12. 
Between two and three hundred members visited President Polk 
on this occasion. 

2 David Levy, Senator from Florida 1 845-1 851, and 185 5-1 861 ; 
better known by the name of Yulee, which he adopted about 1845. 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 29 

ment's warning, when their country required it, to 
put on the habiliments of war. 

The venerable Mr. Stapleton, Vice President of 
the association of old defenders of Baltimore, then 
addressed the President at some length, to which the 
President responded. Mr. Stapleton is a venerable 
gentleman of seventy or more years. In the conclud- 
ing part of his address to the President, after having 
reviewed the principle [principal] incidents con- 
nected with the defence of Baltimore in 18 14, re- 
marked in an elegant & impressive manner that the 
fire was still left in the bosom[s] of the old men, the 
defenders of Baltimore now present, and if occasion 
required it, they were again ready to defend their 
homes & their firesides. The President replied, com- 
mending the noble example of these old patriots to 
the imitation of the younger men, expressing the con- 
fident opinion that in the event the country was again 
involved in war, not only thousands but tens of thou- 
sands would be ready to rush to her standard, not 
only to defend their homes and firesides, but our 
distant frontiers. He expressed the hope that there 
might be a long continuance of peace, but said in view 
of the menaces of war which had recently attracted 
the public attention, he had deemed it to be his duty 
to be prepared for it, with an efficient force on the 
border, ready to repel any invader. 

SATURDAY, 13th September, 1845. — The Cabinet 
met to-day, all the members present except the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, who had left this morning 
on a visit to his family at Bordenton, New Jersey. 



30 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Sept. 

No question of importance came up. Some ques- 
tions of detail, of business, were spoken of and dis- 
posed of. 

The President held a long conversation with the 
Secretary of War & The Hon. Mr. Levy, U. S. 
Senator from Florida, in relation to the manner of 
making payment to certain militia forces in Florida, 
provided for by the act of 3rd March, 1845. The 
claims embraced in that act had been audited and 
adjusted by the accounting officers of the Treasury. 
The Secretary of War had decided to send a Pay- 
master of the army to Florida, to pay off to each of- 
ficer & soldier the amount due each, as ascertained 
& audited at the Treasury. Mr. Levy earnestly & 
vehemently objected to this mode of payment, and 
insisted that the whole sum due to all of them 
should be paid in gross to Mr. Parsons who, he stated, 
had powers of attorney from the officers and men to 
receive what was due to them. The gross sum be- 
ing large, probably exceeding $200,000, the Secre- 
tary of War was of opinion that the payments 
should be made directly & individually to the offi- 
cers & men who performed [the service], and thereby 
prevent any possibility of fraudulent transfers of 
their claims, which may have been made on inade- 
quate consideration. A long discussion took place, 
in which, among other things, the Secretary of War 
stated he had received letters from two of [the] ex- 
Governors of Florida (Gov. Call & Gov. Branch) ex- 
pressing the opinion that the payments should be 
made to the men in Florida, and not to an agent at 
Washington. The Secretary said that he should cer- 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 31 

tainly make the payments in Florida, and not to an 
agent here, unless the President should overrule him 
in this determination. The President said he con- 
curred in opinion with the Secretary, and should not 
overrule him, expressing his own opinion that the 
payments should be made to the officers and men di- 
rectly & not to an agent. Mr. Levy left, somewhat 
excited and much dissatisfied at the decision. He 
called again at 8 O'Clock P. M., & seemed to be calm 
and expressed himself not [to] have changed his 
opinion, but seemed to be better satisfied than at the 
former interview. 

Judge Mason and the Postmaster [General] be- 
ing with the President in his office to-day after the 
Cabinet adjourned, Judge Mason informed the Presi- 
dent that Gov. Pierce M. Butler of S. C. had 
mentioned to him that morning that Baily Peyton ? 
was in the City, and that Mr. Peyton had expressed to 
him a desire to call and pay his respects to the Presi- 
dent, but that he was restrained from doing so, not 
knowing how the President would receive [him]. 
Gov. Butler [had said], as Judge Mason stated, that 
Mr. Peyton said he had never had any personal dif- 
ficulty or misunderstanding w T ith the President, that 
in politics he had differed with him, that in the po- 
litical discussions in Tennessee he had used strong 
language towards him, but not stronger than was 
usual towards political opponents in that State. The 
President said that Mr. Peyton had stated the rela- 

1 Bailie Peyton of Tennessee, 1 803-1 878, became a resident of 
New Orleans in 1837, served on General Worth's staff during 
the Mexican War. 



32 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Sept. 

tions between them as he understood [them]. He 
said that for several years past he had had no personal 
intercourse with Mr. Peyton in consequence of the 
violence of party feeling which had seperated them, 
but that he had no personal unkind feeling towards 
Mr. Peyton, and that if he called upon him he would 
receive and treat him courteously & respectfully. 
Judge Mason and Mr. Johnson agreed with the 
President that this would be proper. Judge Mason 
said he would so inform Gov. Butler. 

SUNDAY, 14th September, 1843. — The President 
and Mrs. Polk attended the first Presbyterian church 
to-day. 

MONDAY, 15th September, 1845. — The Secretary 
of War [called] in company with Gen'l Tomson, the 
Paymaster Gen'l, & Major T. P. Andrews of the 
Army, to consult further on the mode of paying 
the Florida militia. The Paymaster stated the great 
difficulty of paying these troops at their homes in 
Florida, dispersed as they were over the whole State, 
and some of them having removed to Texas and else- 
where. He stated that it was the constant practice 
of the Department to pay to agents under Powers of 
atto[rney] properly authenticated. The Secretary of 
War, after a very full conversation on the subject, 
said that his principal object in desiring that a pay- 
master should go to Florida, was to prevent the pos- 
sibility of frauds being practised on the soldiers, but 
that as it was usual to pay to agents, and as Mr. Sen- 
ator Levy gave assurances that Mr. Parsons, the 



I&45] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 33 

agent, was an honest [man] and have [had been] in 
no way ingaged in speculating on these claims, he was 
disposed to yield his first opinion and suffer the pay- 
ments to be made here according to the former usage 
of the Department, as he had learned it from the 
Paymaster General. The Secretary then said that 
he would cause the rolls to be prepared and deliv- 
ered to the Paymaster Gen'l, who would make the 
payments according to law and former usage. 

TUESDAY, l6th September, 1845. — The Cabinet 
met to-day, all the members present. Despatche[s] 
were read from Dr. Parrott, 1 the confidential agent 
of the U. S. in Mexico, giving an account of another 
threatened Revolution, & of the refusal of Paredes 2 
to march his army to Texas. Dr. Parrott's latest 
despatch was of date 29th August, 1845. He gives 
it as his opinion that there will be no declaration 
of war against the U. S. and no invasion of Texas; 
that the Government will be kept employed to 
keep down another revolution which was threat- 
ened. He is also of opinion that the Government 
is desirous to re-establish Diplomatic relations with 
the U. States, and that a Minister from the U. S. 
would be received. In these opinions Mr. Black, 3 

1 William S. Parrott, appointed special agent to restore diplo- 
matic relations with Mexico, commissioned secretary of legation 
November 20, 1845. 

2 Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga, 1 797-1 849, commander of the 
Army of the North at the beginning of the Mexican War; leader 
of the rebellion at San Luis Potosi, 1845; elected provisional 
President of Mexico, January 2, 1846; overthrown and banished, 

1847- 

3 John Black, of New York. 



34 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Sept. 

the U. S. consul at Mexico, of date 23rd Aug't, and 
Mr. Dimond, 1 U. S. Consul at Vera Cruz, of date 
30th Aug't concurred. After much consultation 
it was agreed unanimously that it was expedient to 
re-open Diplomatic relations with Mexico; but 
that it was to be kept a profound secret that such 
a step was contemplated, for the reason mainly that 
if it was known in advance in the U. S. that a Min- 
ister had been sent to Mexico, it would, of course, 
be known to the Brittish, French, & other Foreign 
Ministers at Washington, who might take measures 
to thwart or defeat the objects of the mission. The 
President, in consultation with the Cabinet, agreed 
that the Hon. John Slidell 2 of New Orleans, who 
spoke the Spanish language and was otherwise well 
qualified, should be tendered the mission. It was 
agreed that Mr. Slidell, if he accepted, should leave 
Pensacola in a National Armed vessel & proceed 
to Vera Cruz, without disclosing or making known 
his official character. One great object of the Mis- 
sion, as stated by the President, would be to adjust a 
permanent boundary between Mexico and the U. 
States, and that in doing this the Minister would be 
instructed to purchase for a pecuniary consideration 
Upper California and New Mexico. He said that 
a better boundary would be the Del Norte from its 
mouth to the Passo, 3 in latitude about 32° North, and 

1 F. M. Dimond, of Rhode Island. 

2 John Slidell, 1 793-1 871, member of Congress from Louisiana 
1 843-1845, minister to Mexico 1845. He was not received by 
Mexico and resigned in 1847. 

3 El Paso, the pass south of the Franklin Mountains in latitude 
about 31 45'. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 35 

thence West to the Pacific Ocean, Mexico ceding to 
the U. S. all the country East and North of these lines. 
The President said that for such a boundary the 
amt. of pecuniary consideration to be paid would 
be of small importance. He supposed it might be 
had for fifteen or twenty millions, but he was ready 
to pay forty millions for it, if it could not be had for 
less. In these views the Cabinet agreed with the 
President unanimously. 

WEDNESDAY, iyth September, 1845. — The Presi- 
dent called a special meeting of the Cabinet at 12 
O'Clock this day; all the members present. His ob- 
ject was to consult further on the subject of the pro- 
posed mission to Mexico. From publications in the 
New Orleans papers, which had been brought to his 
notice by Mr. Buchanan since the meeting on yes- 
terday, it appeared that the President of Mexico as 
late as the 21st August, had issued a circular to 
the army, through his Secretary of War, breathing 
a war spirit, and that Gen'l Bustamante 1 had been 
appointed commander-in-chief of the Mexican army. 
From these it was left uncertain whether Dr. Parrott 
and the U. S. consuls at Mexico & Vera Cruz may 
not have been mistaken in regard to the willingness 
of Mexico to receive a minister from the U. States, 
and the President [said] his object in calling the Cab- 
inet [meeting] to-day was to consider whether we 
should not delay sending a minister until the next 
arrival from Vera Cruz, which might be expected in 
a few days by one of our armed vessels, and which 

1 Anastasio Bustamante, President of Mexico 1837-1841. 



36 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 Sept. 

might bring more definite & certain intelligence 
of the dispositions of Mexico. This suggestion was 
agreed to by the Cabinet unanimously, as the more 
prudent course, and especially to guard against the 
danger of having our minister rejected or not re- 
ceived by Mexico. It was then, on the President's 
suggestion, agreed that a letter should be ad- 
dressed by the Secretary of State to Mr. Black, U. 
S. Consul at Mexico, authorizing him to ascertain 
officially from the Mexican Government whether a 
Minister would be received, and to communicate the 
answer with all despatch to our consul at Vera Cruz 
and also to the Government here. It was agreed 
that this letter should be sent to Pensacola, & thence 
conveyed by a Government Vessel to Vera Cruz. It 
was agreed that the President should write a confi- 
dential letter to Mr. Slidell, notifying him of the 
President's intention to appoint him and requesting 
him to be prepared on a day's notice to depart, on re- 
ceiving information that he was desired to do so, from 
Washington. It was understood that if the next ar- 
rival from Mexico made it reasonably certain that 
Mexico would receive a Minister, that he would be 
appointed & proceed at once, without waiting the 
answer of our consul at Mexico. The Cabinet ad- 
journed. In the course of the evening the President 
wrote the confidential letter to Mr. Slidell, & Mr. 
Buchanan the letter to the consul at Mexico, as had 
been agreed on. 

THURSDAY, l8th September, 184^- — Had many 
calls to-day: some on business, some seeking office, 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 37 

and others on visits of ceremony. Nothing worthy 
of note transpired. 

FRIDAY, iQth September, 1845. — Had a number 
of visitors to-day as usual, some of them on business, 
others seeking office, and others called to pay their 
respects. 

SATURDAY, 20th September, 184S. — The Cabinet 
met to-day, it being the regular day of meeting, all 
the members present. Nothing of importance oc- 
curred. The President announced his intention to 
appoint the Hon. Levi Woodbury l to be Judge of 
the Supreme Court of the U. States in place of Judge 
Story, deceased. All the members of the Cabinet 
cordially approved the appointment. 

Andrew J. Donelson, 2 Esq'r, late Charge d'Affaires 
to Texas, visited the President to-day and spent some 
time in conversation with the President & Cabinet 
on Texan & Mexican affairs. Mr. D. was in feeble 
health, & on the President's invitation took a room in 
the President's mansion. 

SUNDAY, 21st September, 1845. — The President 
& Mrs. Polk attended the 1st Presbyterian Church 
to-day. 

Mr. Donelson was quite ill to-day; was confined 

1 Levi Woodbury, 1789—185 1, Senator from New Hampshire 
1 841-1845, Associate Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court 1845- 

1851. 

2 Andrew Jackson Donelson, 1800-187 1, charge d'affaires to 
Texas 1 844-1 845, minister to Berlin and the German Confeder- 
ation 1 846-1 849. 



38 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Sept. 

to his chamber all day; sent for Dr. Miller in the 
afternoon, who prescribed for him. 

About iy 2 O'Clock P.M., and shortly after the 
President & his family had returned from church, 
a servant brought to the President the card of the 
Hon. Mr. Jenifer, 1 late Envoy Extraordinary and 
Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria, accompanied 
by a message that Mr. Jenifer & another Gentle- 
man were at the door & desired to pay their re- 
spects to the President. The President instructed 
the servant to say to the gentlemen that he declined 
seeing company on the sabbath, but that he would 
be pleased to see them on to-morrow. The serv- 
ant reported that the gentlemen retired apparently 
satisfied. 

MONDAY, 22nd September, 1845. — Had many 
visitors to-day, ladies & gentlemen; among them Mr. 
Jenifer, late Minister of the U. States to Austria; 
& Mr. Hannegan, 2 U. S. Senator from Indiana. 
Transacted much official business with the Secre- 
tary of War, Attorney General, Postmaster Gen- 
eral, & Secretary of State. With the Secretary of 
State the instructions to be given to a minister to 
Mexico were discussed and agreed upon. The 
President directed Mr. Buchanan to prepare a letter 
of recall to Mr. Todd, 3 U. S. Minister at St. Peters- 

1 Daniel Jenifer of Maryland, minister to Austria 1 841-1845. 

2 Edward A. Hannegan, Senator from Indiana 1 843-1 849; a 
vehement advocate of the extreme claim of the United States to 
Oregon. 

3 Charles S. Todd of Kentucky, minister to Russia 1841-1846. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 39 

burg, and to instruct him to leave the records of 
the Legation with John Randolph Clay, the Secre- 
tary of Legation, who would act as charge until a 
minister was appointed. The President directed no- 
tice to be given Mr. Wheaton, 1 U. S. Minister at 
Berlin, that he would have leave to return soon as 
it was the President's intention to appoint another 
minister to that Court. 

TUESDAY, 2Jrd September, 184^- — The Cabinet 
met to-day, this being the regular day of meeting, 
all the members present except the Secretary of the 
Navy, who left Washington on Saturday morning 
last, on a visit of inspection to the Squadron and 
Navy yard near Norfolk, Virginia. 

Mr. Ritchie 2 mentioned to me to-day that from 
some conversations which he had had with Mr. 
Buchanan and his friends he thought he desired to be 
appointed to the vacant Judgeship on the Bench of 
the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. 
Ritchie thought that if so advised by his friends he 
would accept it, and would prefer it to his present 
position of Secretary of State. 

Wednesday, 24th September, 1845. — Had a 
long conversation with Mr. Buchanan to-day in 

1 Henry Wheaton of Rhode Island, 1 785-1 848; reporter of the 
U. S. Supreme Court, 1816-1827; minister to Prussia, 1835-1846. 

2 Thomas Ritchie, 1 778-1 854, editor of the Richmond Enquirer; 
associated with J. P. Heiss of the Nashville Union as editor-in- 
chief of fhe Washington Union, the official organ of Polk's admin- 
istration. For an account of the change of the " government 
press," see Niles' Register, LXVIII., 153-154. 



4 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Sept. 

relation to our Foreign affairs, particularly on the 
Oregon question and our relations with Brazil. 
Had a number of visitors to-day, but not so many as 
usual. 

Major A. J. Donelson, who had been confined to a 
sick room since Saturday last, was up to-day and able 
to be at Dinner. A curiously wrought Hickory 
walking cane was presented to me to-day from Mr. 
Hennick of Baltimore, through McClintock Young, 
Esq'r, Ch. Clerk of the Treasury Department. In 
a note accompanying the cane it is stated that it was 
cut near the spot where Gen'l Ross fell in the attack 
by the Brittish army on Baltimore in 1814. 

Thursday, 25/A September, 184s- — Nothing 
worthy of notice occurred to-day. Had fewer calls, 
& more time to attend to correspondence & business, 
than usual. 

Mr. Kaufman, 1 appointed Charge d'affaires from 
Texas, and Mr. Lee, his Secretary of Legation, Mr. 
Senator Hannegan of Indiana, Maj'r A. J. Donel- 
son, & Mr. Buchanan dined with the President to- 
day. 

Directed the Secretary of State to recall Mr. 
Todd, U. S. Minister to Russia; and to write a letter 
to Mr. Wheaton, U. S. Minister to Prussia, that he 
would be re-called during the next Session of the 
Senate and a successor appointed, but giving him an 
opportunity to resign if he chose to do so. 

1 David Spangler Kaufman, member of Congress from Texas 
1846-185 1. 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 41 

FRIDAY, 26th September, 1845, — Transacted of- 
ficial business to-day with the Secretary of State, the 
Secretary of the Treasury, and [the] Commissioner 
of the General Land office. Saw but few other per- 
sons to-day. 

Mr. Buchanan submitted a letter to Mr. Wheaton, 
U. S. minister to Prussia, as directed on yesterday, 
and left a copy of the same with the President. 

Intelligence was received to-day that the con- 
vention of Texas had formed a State constitution and 
had adjourned on the 28th August, 1845. 

SATURDAY, 2Jth September, 1845. — A regular 
meeting of the Cabinet was held to-day, all the mem- 
bers present, the Secretary of the Navy having re- 
turned on yesterday from a visit of inspection to the 
Squadron and Navy Yard at Norfolk, Va. 

The President brought to the notice of the Cab- 
inet the proceedings of the Court Martial in the 
trial of Capt. Philip F. Voorhies * on charges pre- 
ferred against him by the Secretary of the Navy. 
The Court Martial had at first pronounced a sen- 
tence of suspension for eighteen months against 
Capt. Voorhies. The Secretary of the Navy had 
reconvened the Court, on the ground that the pun- 
ishment of suspension for 18 months was not ade- 
quate to the offences of which he had been found 
guilty. The Court, on reconsideration of their sen- 
tence, sentenced him to be dismissed from the Navy 
of the U. States, but unanimously recommended 

1 Moore, Digest of International Law, L, 178-182, and Niles' 
Register, LXVIIL, 227. 



42 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Sept. 

him to the mercy of the Executive. The President 
stated that after a careful examination of the record, 
embracing all the facts as proved on the trial, and 
in view of the recommendation of the Court to the 
mercy of the Executive, he thought the sentence of 
dismissal too severe. He read a paper which he 
had prepared, to the effect that he would mitigate 
the punishment from dismissal from the Navy to 
suspension from duty without pay or emolument 
for the term of five years from this date. To this 
the Secretary of the Navy earnestly objected, & in- 
sisted that the sentence of dismissal ought to be 
approved. A discussion took place between the 
President and Secretary on the subject, in which they 
differed in opinion. The President remarked that 
it was an important matter, as affecting the public 
service as well as the rights of this officer, and he 
would be pleased to have the opinion of the Cabinet, 
and, if convinced of error, he was ready to abandon 
his opinion as indicated in the paper which he had 
read. 

Portions of the testimony were then read, when 
Mr. Buchanan gave his views and expressed an 
opinion agreeing with the President. Mr. Walker, 
Sec. of the Treasury, and Mr. Marcy, Sec. of War, at 
first inclined to agree with Mr. Bancroft, Sec. of the 
Navy, in favour of approving the sentence of dis- 
missal, but finally acquiesced in the President's views. 
Mr. Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, agreed with the Presi- 
dent. Mr. Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, was silent. 
The President said he approved what the Secretary 
of the Navy had done in the case, and in recon- 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 43 

vening the Court, and that in mitigating the pun- 
ishment as he proposed he by no means intended 
any disapprobation of the conduct of the Secretary. 
The President determined to mitigate the sentence 
as stated. The Secretary of the Navy said that 
though differing with the President in opinion, he 
would cheerfully carry the mitigated sentence into 
execution. The President then said that he would in 
a day or two transcribe the mitigated sentence on the 
record of proceedings of the Court martial. 

The President signed to-day the letter of recall 
of Mr. Todd, the U. S. Envoy to Russia. The Sec- 
retary of State desired the President to issue a com- 
mission to John Randolph Clay, the Secretary of 
Legation to St. Petersburg, as charge d'affaires, that 
he might be entitled to the salary as such, until a 
minister was appointed to succeed Mr. Todd. This 
the President declined to do. 

About 4 O'Clock P. M. to-day J. Knox Walker, 
the President's Private Secretary, brought to the 
President a note from Cyril V. Gray, the letter writer 
or correspondent of the Charleston Mercury, to Mr. 
Ritchie, Editor of the Union, transmitting to Mr. 
Ritchie a communication signed " Correspondent of 
the Charleston Mercury'' charging that Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, was the author of the 
President's letter l on the tariff to Mr. Kane of 
Phil., written in June, 1844. The President im- 
mediately pronounced the charge to be false; and 

1 Dated June 19, 1844, t0 J onn K. Kane, of Philadelphia. 
Jenkins, Life of James K. Polk, 80-82, Niles' Register LXVL, 

294- 



44 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Sept. 

requested J. Knox Walker to go immediately to the 
Treasury Dep't and request Mr. Secretary Walker 
to come to his office. Before the Secretary arrived 
Maj'r A. J. Donelson came in, to whom the President 
[read] the communication of Mr. Gray, which 
communication he (Mr. Gray) demanded of Mr. 
Ritchie should be published in the Union. The 
Sec. of the Treasury & the President's Private 
Secretary came in, when the President read Mr. 
Gray's communication, when he & Mr. Walker, 
Sec. of the Treasury, both pronounced the whole 
statement to be false. Mr. Ritchie was sent for. 
The President prepared an authorized contradic- 
tion of the whole statement, which was read over 
in presence of Mr. Walker, Sec. of the Treasury, 
Mr. Ritchie, & J. Knox Walker, Maj'r Donelson 
having left the room during its preperation. J. 
Knox Walker copied it, and it was agreed that it 
should be published in the Union of to-night. 

The President & Mrs. Polk rode to Georgetown 
College about 5 O'Clock P. M. to see Marshall T. 
Polk, jr. ; found him very well & well satisfied. 

SUNDAY, 28th September, 1845. — The President 
& Mrs. Polk attended the first Presbyterian Church 
to-day; Maj'r A. J. Donelson accompanied them to 
church. The Rev. Mr. Post of Charleston, S. C, 
performed service. 

MONDAY, 2Qth September, 1845. — Had a large 
number of visitors to-day, ladies and gentlemen, at 
my office; among them several office seekers as usual. 



i&45] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 45 

I consulted Mr. Medill, 1 Ass't P. M. Gen'l, and 
Ex-Senator Tappan 2 of Ohio to-day, concerning 
the propriety of tendering the office of commissioner 
of Indian Affairs to the Hon. Thomas L. Homer 
of Ohio, in the event that office was made va- 
cant by the appointment of T. Hartley Crawford, 3 
the incumbent, to a Judgeship in the District of 
Columbia. I consulted Mr. Medill in my office in 
the forenoon, and Mr. Tappan in the evening in 
presence of Cave Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l. Both 
Mr. Medill and Judge Tappan advised his appoint- 
ment. 

At 8 O'Clock P.M. Mr. Buchanan called and 
held a conversation with me in relation to a rumour 
which had been in circulation, that he was to be, 
or desired to be, appointed a Judge of the Supreme 
Court of the U. States in place of Judge Baldwin 4 
deceased. He said he had not put the rumour 
in circulation or given any countenance to it. He 
stated it was true that he had long desired to have 
a seat on the Bench of the Supreme [Court], that 
he had once or twice had the opportunity to obtain 
the appointment, but not under circumstances that he 
was willing to accept it. He said that having [heard] 
that such a rumor was abroad and that others had 
mentioned it to me, he thought it proper to come 

1 William Medill, of Ohio. 

2 Benjamin Tappan, 1 773-1857, Senator from Ohio 1 839-1 845. 

3 T. Hartley Crawford, 1 786-1863, Judge of the criminal court 
of the District of Columbia 1 845-1 863. 

4 Henry Baldwin of Connecticut, 1 780-1844; appointed Justice 
of the U. S. Supreme Court, 1830. 



46 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Sept. 

and have a frank conversation with me on the subject. 
He said that he had become satisfied that he could 
not have any influence in controlling the course of 
the Democratic portion of the Pennsylvania dele- 
gation in the next Congress on the subject of the 
tariff; that from what he could learn the whole 
Pennsylvania delegation would oppose any reduc- 
tion of the tariff act of 1842, so as to bring it to the 
revenue principles avowed in my Kane letter and 
Inaugural address, principles which he heartily 
and fully approved. He said if he remained 
in the Cabinet, the opposition of the Democratic 
members from Pennsylvania to a reduction of the 
tariff to the revenue standard would be calculated 
to cast distrust over the sincerity of the admin- 
istration in proposing such a reduction. He said his 
own position would be an awkward one. For these 
reasons he might desire at the meeting of Congress 
to relieve the administration from imputation of 
want of sincerity on the subject of the tariff, by 
being transferred from the Department of State to 
the Supreme Court Bench. He said he would not 
conceal the fact that the appointment of Judge of 
the Supreme Court w r as one which he had for many 
years preferred to any [other] under the Govern- 
ment; but that if when Congress met there should be 
war with Mexico or imminent danger of war with 
Mexico, or with England, in either of these events the 
question of reducing the tariff must necessarily be 
postponed. In the event of War or danger of war 
he would be willing and desirous to remain in his 
present position of Secretary of State, and perhaps 



i&45] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 47 

at some future period an opportunity might be af- 
forded him to go on the Bench. 

The President expressed himself as being entirely 
satisfied with Mr. Buchanan as Secretary of State, 
and spoke of the great difficulty he would have in 
supplying his place in that office if he was trans- 
ferred to the Bench. After a conversation of some 
length on the subject, in which the best feeling pre- 
vailed and was mutually expressed, the President said 
it was not necessary to decide or act now, to which 
Mr. Buchanan replied, certainly not. It was finally 
concluded that they would both think of the matter 
and see what developments would occur before the 
meeting of Congress, and especially what the State 
of our Foreign relations would be at that time. 

It was manifest from the whole tenour of the con- 
versation that Mr. Buchanan was very desirous to 
go on the Bench, though he expressed entire sat- 
isfaction with the President and with the course of 
his administration. 

Shortly after Mr. Buchanan retired Mr. Bancroft 
came in, and Mr. Donelson came in shortly after- 
wards. A conversation occurred in relation to Gen'l 
Jackson's papers 1 and his biography. Maj'r Don- 
elson and the President expressed their earnest de- 
sire that Mr. Bancroft should have charge of his 
papers and write his life. Mr. Bancroft was 
willing to do so. Maj'r Donelson said he had seen 
Mr. F. P. Blair, to whom the papers were entrusted 
by Gen'l Jackson's will, and that Mr. Blair desired 

1 C. H. Lincoln. Some Manuscripts of Early Presidents, Lit- 
erary Collector, May, 1904. 



48 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Sept. 

to pass the papers over to Mr. Bancroft that he might 
prepare his biography. 

TUESDAY, JOth September, 184^- — The Secretary 
of State left Washington this morning on a visit to 
his residence in Pennsylvania. The Cabinet met to- 
day, all the members present except the Secretary of 
State and the Post Master General, the latter being 
detained at his office, transacting business which 
could not be delayed. The President called the at- 
tention of the members of the Cabinet to the im- 
portance of having their annual Reports, preparatory 
to the meeting of Congress, prepared at the earliest 
practicable day, so that they might be submitted to 
him for his examination. He stated to them that 
he wished the estimates to be submitted to Congress 
of appropriations of the next fiscal year, to be made 
on the most economical scale, and to be as small as 
the public service would permit. He told them 
that they must give vigilant attention to the estimates 
and Reports prepared by the several Heads of Bu- 
reau, remarking that as a general rule the Bureau 
officers were favourable to large expenditures, and in 
some instances included objects which were un- 
constitutional, especially in regard to internal im- 
provements. A full conversation was held on the 
subject of the tariff, and the principles which should 
be embraced in the Report of the Secretary of the 
Treasury and in the President's message. 

The President reminded the Cabinet that the 
monthly Reports of their several Departments in 
reference to the manner in which their clerks had 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 49 

performed their duty, in pursuance of his circular 
of the nth April, 1845, had not been made to him 
for the last two months, and requested that the re- 
ports for this month (September) should be made. 
They expressed themselves surprised at the omission, 
and said the reports in arrear, as well as that for Sep- 
tember, should be made. The reports from the Gen- 
eral Post Office have been regularly made every 
month, but from no other Department. 

Wednesday, 1st October, 1845. — The President 
attended the commencement of the Columbian Col- 
lege ! to-day at the Baptist church on 10th Street. 
He was accompanied from the President's mansion 
by the Secretary of War & the attorney General. 
The Secretary of the Treasury came into the church 
during the exercises. 

Returned to the President's Mansion about 2 
O'Clock, & had comparatively few visitors to-day. 

THURSDAY, 2nd October, 1845. — Had visitors to- 
day as usual, some seeking office, some on business, 
& others to pay their respects. 

FRIDAY, 3rd October, 1845. — Had the usual 
round of visitors to-day. Mr. John K. Kane of 
Philadelphia dined with the President to-day. 

SATURDAY, 4th October, 1845. — This was the reg- 
ular day of the meeting of the Cabinet. The Secre- 

1 Incorporated as Columbian College, 1821 ; as Columbian Uni- 
versity, 1873. 



So JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Oct. 

tary of State was absent from Washington on a visit 
to Pennsylvania, and the Secretary of the Navy did 
not attend. The Secretary of War remained but a 
few minutes, when a messenger informed him that 
Mrs. M. had just arrived at Washington, when he 
retired. The other members of the Cabinet re- 
mained for two or three hours, conversing on various 
public subjects, but no business of importance was 
transacted, & nothing worthy of notice occurred. 

Mrs. J. Knox Walker & her children, accom- 
panied by her Grandfather, Mr. Tabb, returned to- 
day from a visit to Lynchburg, Va., where they had 
been since early in August. 

SUNDAY, 5th October, 1845. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day with Mrs. Polk and Mr. 
Tabb of Lynchburg, Virginia. 

MONDAY, 6th October, 184s- — Had visitors to- 
day as usual; and among them the Hon. Wm. Cast 
Johnson of Md., Hon. Joseph Johnson of Va., & the 
Hon. Mr. McCrate, 1 the two latter members of the 
next Congress, called. 

Transacted business as usual, but nothing of im- 
portance occurred. 

TUESDAY, 7th October, 1845. — The Cabinet held 
their regular meeting to-day. The Secretary of 
State was absent on a visit to Pennsylvania, & the Sec- 
retary of the Navy on a visit to Boston, where he was 
called suddenly on Saturday last in consequence of 

1 John D. McCrate, Representative from Maine 1 845-1 847. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 51 

information received of the illness of one of his 
children. The other members of the Cabinet con- 
versed on several public matters, and transacted pub- 
lic business. 

After the Cabinet adjourned, Ex-Governor Fran- 
cis Thomas of Maryland called according to pre- 
vious appointment, the Attorney General (Mr. Ma- 
son) still remaining. Gov. Thomas applied to the 
President to order a nolle prosequi, in the case of an 
indictment pending against him in the Circuit Court 
of the U. States for the District of Columbia, in 
which Col. Benton was prosecutor. Gov. Thomas 
made a lengthy statement of the facts & circum- 
stances of the case, and assigned the reasons why he 
thought the President should interpose and stop the 
prosecution. The President promptly declined to 
do so. He informed Gov. Thomas that he did not 
consider that he possessed any such power; that the 
Judiciary & the Executive were independent and 
coordinate Departments, and that he had never 
known such a power exerted by the Executive of any 
State, and that he had never heard of it having 
been exercised by the President of the U. States. 
Gov. Thomas insisted that the power existed and 
had been often exercised by the Governor of Mary- 
land. The President replied that the practice in 
Maryland might be an exception to the General rule; 
& inquired of Gov. Thomas what power he would 
have to enforce such an order, if he were to issue it? 
The Judges of the Court in this District would not 
be bound to obey him, and if they disobeyed him 
he would have no power to impose obedience; that 



52 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Oct. 

according to the law as he understood it, the Court 
was the exclusive judge of the propriety of permit- 
ting or ordering a nolle prosequi in any case pending 
before them, and without the assent of the Court it 
could not be done. Gov. Thomas said if the Pres- 
ident would entertain the question, he would make 
a written application and produce authorities to 
establish the existence of the power. The President 
replied that it was unnecessary to do so, as his mind 
was made up on the subject; that he had never ex- 
amined the merits of the case, and must leave the 
decision of the case exclusively to the Court, without 
any interference on his part. Gov. Thomas made a 
long statement of the facts, and dwelt on the hard- 
ship of the case, alledging that in this criminal pro- 
ceeding he could not command the attendance of 
witnesses residing out of this District, and under 
the issue joined could not give in evidence facts 
material to his defence, and therefore it was, that he 
appealed to the President to exert the power which, 
he insisted, he possessed, to arrest the proceedings. 
The President made no reply except to reiterate his 
decision. Gov. Thomas then asked the President if 
he had any objection to his using the fact that he had 
made this application to him, if he should hereafter 
think proper to do so. The President replied that 
of course he could have no objection to his doing so, 
if he chose. 

Judge Mason, the Attorney General, was present 
during the whole conversation, and expressed his 
opinion on the law of the case, in which he concurred 
in the views expressed by the President. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 53 

Gov. Thomas retired; when Judge Mason in- 
quired of the President, if he did not think he 
was deranged. The President said he seemed to 
talk rationally but was manifestly under great 
feeling. 

Mr. Dallas, the Vice-President of the U. States, 
called, and having reached Washington to-day, and 
being compelled to return to Philadelphia by the 
cars of this evening, he dined with the President at 
4 O'Clock P. M. 

Maj'r A. J. Donelson returned from the North 
to-day, and took lodgings at the President's mansion. 
He dined with the President also. After dinner 
Mr. Dallas left for Philadelphia. 

WEDNESDAY, 8th October, 1845. — Had more vis- 
itors to-day than usual; but nothing of importance 
transpired. Had a small dinner party consisting of 
Hon. Mr. Holmes of Charleston, S. C, Hon. Mr. 
Weller, Hon. Mr. Parrish, and Mr. McCormick of 
Ohio, Judge Shields, Com. of the Land Office, Judge 
Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, & A. J. Donelson, Esq'r. 

THURSDAY, gth October, 1845. — Transacted bus- 
iness & received visitors as usual to-day, but noth- 
ing of importance occurred. 

FRIDAY, IOth October, 1845. — Closed my doors 
to-day until evening to enable me to transact busi- 
ness of importance on my table, and saw no one but 
some of the Heads of Department & a few gentle- 
men whom they introduced. Mr. Buchanan re- 



54 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Oct. 

turned to-day from his visit to Pennsylvania & called 
about i P. M. At i P. M. I received Mr. Paken- 
ham, the Brittish Minister, who appeared in full 
Court dress and delivered to me a letter from Vic- 
toria, Queen of Great Brittain, addressed to the Pres- 
ident of the U. States, on the occasion of Mr. Ever- 
ett's withdrawal as the U. S. minister at her Court. 
It was a letter complimentary to Mr. Everett, & 
expressing a desire that the relations of peace & good 
understanding might continue to exist between the 
two countries. Mr. Pakenham in delivering it ex- 
pressed the same sentiment, which was reciprocated 
by the President. 

Saturday, nth October, /6V5-— This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The 
only members who attended were the Secretary of 
State, of War, and of the Treasury. The Secretary 
of the Navy was still absent on a visit to his family 
in Massachusetts. Mr. Mason, the acting Secretary 
of the Navy, and the Post Master General came in 
after the other members of the Cabinet had retired. 
The Secretary of the Navy (Mr. Mason) stated that 
they had been at the Navy Department], inspecting* 
the opening of the bids for the construction of the 
Navy Yard at Memphis. He stated that the Post 
Master General had attended by request. 

The President then read to Mr. Mason and Mr. 
Johnson a paper containing the rough draft of what 
he had written the day before, containing the sub- 
stance of his views on the tariff, which he intended 
to present to Congress in his message. They both 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 55 

expressed their approbation of the views contained 
in the paper. After they retired Mr. Ritchie came 
in, and the paper was read to him; he also expressed 
his approbation as far as he understood it at a single 
reading, but intimated that he would desire a care- 
ful examination of it, before he would be prepared 
to give it his unqualified assent. 

The Hon. Mr. Woodworm, 1 a Representative in 
Congress from New York, & Gov. Marcy dined with 
the President to-day. 

SUNDAY, I2th October, 1845. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day with Mrs. Polk and 
Mrs. J. Knox Walker and M. T. Polk, who had come 
on a visit from the Georgetown college. 

After night and between 7 and 8 O'Clock, Mr. 
Buchanan called in, and held a conversation with 
the President in relation to the State of our Foreign 
affairs. Among other things he stated that before 
he left Washington on his late visit to Pennsylvania, 
he had, with the President's permission, submitted 
confidentially to Col. Benton all the correspondence 
which had taken place on the Oregon question, except 
the instructions to Mr. McLane, and that Col. Ben- 
ton approved what had been done on the part of 
the U. States, & seemed to be gratified at the con- 
fidence which had been reposed in him. Mr. 
[Buchanan], as he stated, had suggested to him that 
the President, he had no doubt, would be pleased to 
converse with him on the subject, and said to him 

*W. W. Woodworth, Representative from New York 1845- 
1847. 



56 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Oct. 

at the same time that the correspondence had been 
shown to him by the President's authority. Col. 
Benton replied that he would be glad to see the 
President on the subject, that he had nothing to do, 
and the President was, he knew, much engaged, and 
intimated that he would call on the President at any 
time the President might inform him he desired to 
see him. 

MONDAY, IJth October, 1845. — Had mor$ office 
seekers to-day than for many days past, but appointed 
none of them. 

Maj'r A. J. Donelson of Tennessee, who had on the 
President's invitation taken his lodgings at the Pres- 
ident's Mansion during his stay in Washington, left 
at 10 O'Clock P. M. for his home in Tennessee. 

This evening Miss Johanna Rucker (Mrs. Polk's 
niece) arrived in Washington from Tennessee. 

TUESDAY, 14th October, 1845. — The Cabinet met 
to-day, all the members present. The Secretary of 
War & the attorney General retired early in the 
day, having business which called them away. 
Various public matters were discussed. After the 
Cabinet retired Gen'l James Hamilton, Jr., of S. C. 
called and [held] a conversation on Texan and Mex- 
ican affairs. He expressed an entire concurrence of 
views with the President in relation to these sub- 
jects. 

The Hon. Nath'l P. Tallmadge, 1 who had been 

1 Nathaniel Pitcher Tallmadge, 1 795-1 869, Senator from New 
York 1 833-1 844; appointed Territorial Governor of Wisconsin 
1844, removed 1846. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 57 

recently removed by the President as Governor of 
Wisconsin, called and held a long and friendly con- 
versation with the President. He said he did not 
come to complain of his removal, but desired to state 
some facts and explain his position. He then gave a 
history of his political course, his seperation from 
Mr. Van Buren's administration on the Independent 
Treasury question, his appointment without solicita- 
tion on his part as Governor of Wisconsin, and that 
he was now and had always been in principle a Dem- 
ocrat. He stated, among other things, that when he 
took his ground against the Independent Treasury 
scheme, he consulted with Gov. Marcy, who was 
then Governor of New York, who concurred with 
him in opinion, but that the Governor afterwards 
endorsed the scheme in his message to the Legisla- 
ture of New York, and that he was left by many of 
those leading Democrats in N. York who had at 
first approved his course, to stand alone. He said he 
was afterwards elected to the Senate by the Whigs 
& conservatives, but that he had never professed 
to be a Whig and was not in fact so, and that he had 
given great offence to many Whigs by refusing to 
take the name and call himself a Whig. He said his 
removal was unexpected, but he did not blame the 
President, who had no doubt acted upon the best in- 
formation before him. He said that the paper signed 
by the members of the Legislative Assembly of Wis- 
consin in favour of the restoration of Gov. Dodge, 
upon which he supposed the President had mainly 
acted, did not express the views of many who had 
signed it, and said that a member named Strong and 



5 8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Oct. 

two or three others were all who really wished his re- 
moval, and that the paper so signed had been con- 
cealed from some of his leading Democratic friends 
in the Legislature, who had no knowledge of its exist- 
ence. He said since his removal he had told all his 
friends that the President was not to blame, & that he 
had no doubt he had been influenced in his course 
from a desire to do what he considered justice to Gov. 
Dodge by restoring [him] to the office from which he 
had been improperly removed. The President said 
to him that in this he was right; that the view he 
had taken of the case was this: Gov. Dodge was a 
Pioneer in the West and an old Indian fighter, a man 
of high character, and the half-brother of the late 
Senator, Dr. Lynn of Mo., who had been removed 
from the office of Governor by the late administra- 
tion and Mr. Dotey appointed on political grounds 
solely; that from the papers before him, including 
the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly, it 
appeared to be the popular sentiment of the Democ- 
racy in Wisconsin that justice should be done him by 
restoring him to the office from which he had been 
removed without cause. The President added that 
he [had] not acted from any feeling of hostility to 
Gov. Tallmadge. He said also that the people of the 
Territories had made serious objections to the prac- 
tice of appointing persons from the states to offices 
within their boundaries, and that he had said to the 
Delegates in Congress that he would not do so, but 
would when he could find proper men, appoint citi- 
zens of the Territories to the offices within their lim- 
its. The President made no observations on that 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 59 

part of Mr. Tallmadge's conversation which related 
to his (Mr. TVs) course on the Independent Treas- 
ury, or his political course, but confined himself to 
the reasons stated which had satisfied him that it was 
proper to remove him and restore Gov. Dodge. The 
President stated that Gov. Dodge had himself acted 
modestly in the matter; that he desired to be restored, 
but had said nothing to him to the disparagement of 
Gov. Tallmadge. The whole conversation was in a 
friendly strain, and Gov. Tallmadge left expressing 
himself well satisfied with the interview. The Presi- 
dent also expressed his gratification that it had oc- 
curred. 

In the evening, it being the President's reception 
evening, Gov. Tallmadge was present for an hour 
or more. A number of ladies & gentlemen were 
present. Among others Gov. Marcy came in, and 
the President said to him, Gov. Tallmadge is in the 
room, whereupon he turned off, advanced to Gov. 
Tallmadge and accosted him. The President did 
not observe that they held much conversation during 
the evening. 

WEDNESDAY, 15th October, 1845. — Saw company 
from 12 to iy 2 O'Clock P. M. to-day. Nothing of 
interest occurred. 

THURSDAY, 16th October, 1845. — Saw company 
at 12 O'Clock to-day. Among others who called was 
Mr. Vespasian Ellis, late Charge d'affaires to Vene- 
zuela. Mr. Ellis had been appointed by Mr. Tyler, 
but his nomination was pending before the Senate 
and was unacted on at the close of Mr. Tyler's term. 



6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Oct. 

Early in March I nominated Hon. Benfn F. Shields 
of Alabama in his place, who was confirmed by 
the Senate. Mr. Ellis entered into a long conver- 
sation. I stated to him the circumstances under 
which he was superseded, and he expressed no dis- 
satisfaction, but intimated that he was mortified at 
having to leave this mission so soon. He gave a long 
history of his political course, which I do not under- 
take to detail. Among other things he said he had 
been an Independent man in politics all his life; that 
he was a Republican, but had sometimes differed 
with his party and seperated from them; that he 
had been in the Legislature of Va. from Accomack 
Co.; that he had been a Jackson man, but left him 
when he published his Proclamation and took ground 
against S. C. ; that he had supported Harrison & 
Tyler in 1840; that he was opposed to a Bank & 
he believed they were both so; that he had after- 
wards established a paper at St. Louis, Mo., and ad- 
vocated Mr. Tyler's nomination & election; that he 
was in the Tyler Convention at Baltimore, but after- 
wards supported my election ; avowed great hostility 
to Col. Benton; and concluded by desiring to know 
whether he could probably obtain an appointment, as 
I understood him. I replied that I had no places 
now to fill & could give no assurances or pledges. 
He impressed me with the belief that he was a man of 
some talents, but not a person whom I should be 
likely to appoint to office. 

FRIDAY, 17th October, 184^.— Kept my doors 
closed to-day, and was engaged in writing off a rough 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 61 

draft of parts of my message to be delivered to Con- 
gress at their meeting in December. Saw no one 
except members of the Cabinet and officers of the 
Government on official business, except Mr. An- 
drews, late consul to Buenos Ayres, & Hon. Mr. 
Ellis, late member of Congress from N. York, who 
were introduced by Mr. Buchanan. 

SATURDAY, l8th October, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Several public subjects were discussed and 
acted on. 

About 2 O'Clock a military company from Fred- 
ericksburg, Va., accompanied by a company from 
Alexandria, and one from Washington, called at the 
President's Mansion and paid their respects. They 
were received in the Circular parlour in the presence 
of the Cabinet. The Company from Fredericksburg 
were personally & individually introduced to the 
President. 

SUNDAY, igth October, 1845. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day with Mrs. Polk and our 
niece, Miss Johanna Rucker. 

MONDAY, 20th October, 1845. — Had an unusually 
large number of visitors to-day, most of them on vis- 
its of ceremony, and many office seekers, most of 
whom had repeatedly called on me before. 

At 12 O'Clock I received, in pursuance of a pre- 
vious appointment, a large number (say from 30 to 
40) of ministers of the Gospel and lay members of the 



62 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Oct. 

Lutheran Church, who had been in attendance on a 
synod of their body in Washington. 

Gave to Mr. Buchanan to-day, the first draft of 
the paragraphs of my message to Congress relating 
to Texas and Oregon, for his examination, and for 
any suggestions he might choose to make. 

TUESDAY, 21 st October, 1845. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day, all the members present. 
An important despatch under date of Oct. 3rd, 
1845, was read from Mr. McLane, U. S. Minister to 
London. Mr. McLane gave an account of an inter- 
view which he had held with Lord Aberdeen at the 
Foreign office on the subject of the Oregon negoti- 
ation. Lord Aberdeen expressed his regret (as 
stated in Mr. McLane's despatch) that Mr. Paken- 
ham had rejected the American proposition of com- 
promise. He condemned Mr. Pakenham's course 
and intimated the willingness on the part of the Brit- 
tish Government to agree to a modified proposition, 
and desired to be informed whether the President of 
the U. S. would negotiate further on the subject, after 
he had withdrawn the American proposition. Mr. 
Buchanan expressed an opinion, formed on the tenour 
of Mr. McLane's despatch, that the Brittish Govern- 
ment would be willing and desirous to resume the 
nego[tia]tion by making another proposition on their 
part. He said he had no doubt Mr. Pakenham had 
received instructions from his Government by the 
same vessel that brought Mr. McLane's despatch, 
that he thought it probable he would call upon him 
in a day or two to converse on the subject, and if he 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 63 

did so, he desired to know precisely what he should 
say to him. He would probably desire to know 
whether the U. S. would receive another proposition, 
and to ascertain what modification of the American 
proposition would be accepted by us. The President 
said our course was a plain one. We had made a 
proposition which had been rejected, in terms not 
very courteous. The Brittish had afterwards been 
informed, in the note of Mr. Buchanan of the 30th of 
August, that our proposition was withdrawn and no 
longer to be considered as pending. In the close of 
that note, the door of further negotiation was left 
open. If the Brittish Minister, therefore, called on 
Mr. Buchanan, and made the inquiries suggestion 
[suggested], all that could be said to him was, that if 
he had any further proposition to make on his part, it 
would be received and considered. This was all that 
could with propriety be said to him. No intimation 
should be given to him of what the views or inten- 
tions of the administration were, & [but] leave him to 
take his own course. The President said it was 
manifest that the tone of the Brittish Government was 
considerably lowered on the subject. Mr. Buchanan 
said that if we stopped the negotiation where it was, 
it would inevitably lead to war. The President re- 
plied that he was well satisfied with the ground we 
occupied on the subject. The President went on at 
some length to state, as he had done on former occa- 
sions, the reasons which had induced him, in defer- 
ence to the acts of his predecessors and the commit- 
ments of the Government, reluctantly to yield his 
assent to the proposition which had been made and 



64 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Oct. 

rejected, and that he was now satisfied with the posi- 
tion in which the matter stood. He said if the same 
proposition were now made, by the Brittish Minister 
(on the Pres't having once discharged his duty) he 
would not accept it. He said the Brittish Minis- 
ter would not, he was sure, make any new proposition 
which we could accept; that when his proposition 
was received (if he made one) he would either re- 
ject it, or submit it to the Senate for their advice be- 
fore he acted on [it], according to its character. Mr. 
Buchanan asked if he might say, in the conversation 
which he anticipated Mr. Pakenham would seek 
with him, that if he made a proposition of a character 
to justify it, the President would submit it to the 
Senate for their previous advice before he acted on 
it. The President replied, that would be improper; 
the Brittish Minister had no right to know our coun- 
cils or intentions. It was enough to let him under- 
stand, if he asked for information, that we had not 
closed the door to a continuance of the negotiation, 
and he might continue it, if he chose, but give him 
no assurances or intimation of what our course would 
be. 

Mr. Buchanan thought we ought not to precipi- 
tate a crisis between the two countries, and that by 
delay we might secure the Oregon territory, but by 
strong measures hastily taken, we would have war 
and might lose it. The President said he was satis- 
fied with the state of the negotiation as it stood; and 
went on to state what he proposed to communicate to 
Congress in his first Message. He would maintain 
all our rights, would take bold and strong ground, 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 65 

and reaffirm Mr. Monroe's ground against permit- 
ting any European power to plant or establish any 
new colony on the North American Continent. 

Wednesday, 22nd October, 1845. — Gave orders 
to the porter this morning that I desired to see no 
company. The reason of this order was, though 
not stated to the porter, that I desired to devote the 
day to the preperation of my message to Congress. 
In this I was disappointed, as I had but little time 
to write. The Secretaries of War, of State, & the 
Navy and other officers of Government called at 
different times of the day on official business and 
to introduce their friends. Gov. Branch of N. C, 
but recently of Florida, called and spent some time. 
He expressed his approbation of the course of the 
administration as far as it had progressed; he was 
in a fine humour, and was particularly delighted that 
Wm. B. Lewis and Thomas L. Smith had been re- 
moved from office. 

After night Mr. Buchanan called and stated that 
Mr. Pakenham had called on him at his House, and 
had some conversation with him on the Oregon ques- 
tion, and that 10 O'Clock A. M. to-morrow was ap- 
pointed for an official interview at the State Depart- 
ment. Mr. B. thought Mr. P. was deeply concerned 
on the subject, and the awkwardness of the position 
of his Government since the proposition of this Gov- 
ernment had been withdrawn. 

Mr. Buchanan returned to me to-day the first 
draft of my message relating to Texas, with a view 
on the same subject somewhat condensed, but not dif- 



66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Oct. 

fering in sentiment from my draft given to him on 
monday last, for his examination. 

Read to Mr. Ritchie to-day what I had written 
for the message on the subject of Oregon. He said 
it was bold ground, but he thought he would ap- 
prove it. 

Thursday, 23rd October, 1845. — Saw company 
to-day from 12 to 2 O'Clock P.M. Had a [the] 
usual number of visitors, some office seekers, some 
begging money, and others to pay their respects. 

Mr. Buchanan called and reported that he had 
held a conversation of two hours in length with Mr. 
Pakenham at the State department on the subject 
of the Oregon negotiation. Mr. P. regretted that 
the American proposition had been withdrawn, as 
it might have formed the basis of further negotia- 
tion. Much conversation, Mr. B. reported to me, 
occurred on that point, which resulted in a decla- 
ration by Mr. B. that what had occurred could not 
be changed. Mr. Pakenham said that a protocol 
might be signed which would open the negotiation 
again, though he did not propose this formally. 
Mr. B. told him that if the Brittish Government 
thought proper to make another proposition it 
would be respectfully considered, and this was the 
extent to which he went. Mr. P.'s difficulty seemed 
to be, how to make a proposition, as long as the 
American proposition remained withdrawn. Mr. 
B. reported that Mr. P. seemed to be troubled, 
but talked pleasantly and seemed to leave the De- 
partment reluctantly. It was understood before 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 67 

Mr. P. retired that they were to have another con- 
ference on the subject. Mr. B. said the conversa- 
tion was a very long and rather a diffuse one, and he 
could not pretend to report it in detail. 

I told Mr. Buchanan that in the present state of 
the negotiation the Brittish Government must move 
first; & that, if they made a new proposition, it 
would depend on its character whether it was re- 
jected, or whether I would take the advice of the 
Senate before it was responded to; & that I had no 
belief the Brittish Government would make a propo- 
sition which we could accept. 

Friday, 24th October, 1845. — Received to-day a 
letter from Andrew Jackson, jr., enclosing to me 
a letter * from Gen'l Andrew Jackson written on the 
6th June, 1845, two days before his death, and the 
last letter which he ever wrote. This letter breathes 
the most ardent friendship for me personally and 
for the success of my administration. It is marked 
" confidential," and communicates information 
touching the official conduct of a person high in 
office, in reference to which Gen'l J. in his dying 
moments thought it proper to put me on my guard. 
As it is highly confidential, its contents will never be 
disclosed by me or with my permission. It will be 
preserved as a highly prized memorial of the friend- 
ship of the dying patriot, a friendship which had 
never for a moment been broken, from my early 
youth until the day of his death. Andrew Jackson, 
jr., in his letter enclosing [it] to me, explains the 

1 Schouler, Historical Briefs, 132. 



68 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Oct. 

circumstances under which it had been accidentally 
mislaid among other papers on his table in his dying 
room, and had not been discovered until recently 
before he enclosed it to me. The latter letter I will 
also preserve. 

Mr. Buchanan having some days ago, with my ap- 
probation, submitted confidentially to Col. Thos. 
H. Benton the official correspondence between the 
Secretary of State and Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish 
Minister, — the correspondence which had taken 
place in the pending negotiation between the two 
Governments on the subject of Oregon, and being 
informed by Mr. Buchanan that Col. Benton ap- 
proved of what had been done on the part of this 
Government, and that upon a suggestion made to 
him by Mr. B. that he had no doubt I would 
be pleased to see and converse with him on the 
subject, Mr. Benton replied to him that he would be 
pleased to do so at any time the President was at 
leisure, that he, Col. Benton, was always at leisure 
but knew that I was much engaged; I this morning 
requested my Private Secretary to call on Col. Ben- 
ton and say to him that I would be pleased to see 
him. This I did at Mr. Buchanan's suggestion made 
to me two or three days ago. My Private Secretary 
returned about 12 O'Clock & informed me that Col. 
Benton would call on me at 1 O'Clock P. M. to- 
day. He accordingly called at that hour. His 
manner and conversation were altogether pleasant 
and friendly, and such as they had always been 
in former years when I was in Congress with 
him. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 69 

After a few minutes of desultory conversation on 
commonplace subjects I adverted to the fact, that 
[the] correspondence in relation to Oregon had 
been submitted to him with my approbation and that 
I desired to have a conversation with him on the sub- 
ject, and to have his views if he had no objection to 
give them. 

He entered into the conversation very cheerfully. 
I told him that there was no probability that [the] 
subject could [be] adjusted by a negotiation, and 
that it was a matter of the gravest importance what 
course the Government should take at the meeting 
of Congress. He remarked that he approved what 
had been done on the part of the U. S., and that he 
had told Mr. Buchanan last spring that he would sup- 
port the settlement of the question at the parallel of 
49 of North Latitude. I told him that I had reluc- 
tantly yielded my assent to make the proposition for 
that parallel, which had been made and rejected by 
the Brittish Minister, and that I had done so alone in 
deference to what had been done by preceding ad- 
ministrations, and the commitments of the Govern- 
ment which they had made; and that, feeling bound 
by their acts, I had not felt at liberty abruptly to 
break of! the negotiation. I told him that the 
proposition having been rejected by the Brittish 
Minister, I was now disposed to assert our extreme 
right to the whole country; that from the information 
I had I thought the Brittish Government desired that 
I should renew the proposition which they had re- 
jected and which had been subsequently withdrawn. 
The conversation continued, and without recording 



7 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Oct. 

it at length as it occurred, we agreed in the following 
views, viz,: 

1 st. That the 12 months notice for the abroga- 
tion of the Convention of 1827 should be given. 

2nd. That our laws & jurisdiction should be 
extended over our citizens in Oregon, to the same 
extent that the Brinish laws had been extended over 
Brittish subjects by the act 1 of Parliament of 1821. 

3rd. That block-houses or stockade forts should 
be erected on the route from U. S. to Oregon, and 
that two or three Regiments of mounted riflemen 
should be raised, for the protection of emigrants on 
their route to Oregon. 

4th. That our Indian policy should be extended 
to Oregon. 

All these things, we agreed, co.uld be done without 
a violation on our part of the Convention of 1827, 
and without giving just cause of offence to Great 
Brittain. I remarked that I was in favour of making 
grants of land to the emigrants, but I had some 
doubts whether this could be done until after the 
expiration of the year's notice, without a violation 
of the Treaty of 1827. Of this Col. Benton also had 
some doubts, and did not seem to be clear. 

I told Col. Benton that I was strongly inclined 
to reaffirm Mr. Monroe's doctrine against permitting 
foreign colonization, at least so far as this Continent 
was concerned. At this point, without denying the 
general proposition, Col. Benton remarked that 
Great Brittain possessed the same kind of title to 
Frazer's River, by discovery, exploration, and settle- 

1 I & 2 George IV., c 66. 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 71 

ment that the U. S. did to the Columbia River. 
I remarked that we claimed it under the Spanish ti- 
tle, to which Col. B. said the Spaniards had occupied 
and had a good title to Vancouver's Island, but had 
known nothing of the existence of such a river as 
Frazer's River; that we were entitled to the coast 
under the Spanish title. To this I said it would de- 
pend on the public law of nations, how far the dis- 
covery and possession of the coast would give Spain 
a title to the adjoining country in the interior. 

The conversation then turned on California, on 
which I remarked that Great Brittain had her eye 
on that country and intended to possess it if she 
could, but that the people of the U. S. would not 
willingly permit California to pass into the posses- 
sion of any new colony planted by Great Brittain or 
any foreign monarchy, and that in reasserting Mr. 
Monroe's doctrine, I had California & the fine bay 
of San Francisco as much in view as Oregon. Col. 
Benton agreed that no Foreign Power ought to be 
permitted to colonize California, any more than they 
would be to colonize Cuba. As long as Cuba re- 
mained in the possession of the present Government 
we would not object, but if a powerful foreign power 
was about to possess it, we would not permit it. 
On the same footing we would place California. 

Col. B. in the course of the conversation stated the 
fact that the Brittish Hudson's Bay Company had 
now 20 Forts on Frazier's River. 

Some conversation occurred concerning Capt. 
Fremont's expedition, 1 and his intention to visit Cal- 

1 Niles' Register, LXXL 



72 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Oct. 

ifornia before his return. Col. B. expressed the 
opinion that Americans would settle on the Sacra- 
minto River and ultimately hold the country. The 
conversation on the subject of Foreign Colonization 
closed by a general remark that no new Foreign 
Colony could be permitted on any part of the North 
American Continent, on which there seemed to be 
an agreement. Col. B. made no dissent to the 
proposition, but I was left in doubt whether he in- 
tended to include in it the country on Frazer's River, 
now occupied by Brittish posts, but I inclined to the 
opinion that he did not intend that the principle 
should apply to the country watered by that River 
& North of 49 of North Latitude. 

The conversation closed very pleasantly. The 
first rough draft of my message to Congress on the 
Oregon question, which I had finished to-day, lay on 
my table when Col. B. came into my office, but 
I did not state the fact to him. It embraced, 
written out, the views the substance of which I ex- 
pressed in the conversation I have detailed with Col. 
Benton. 

On Col. Benton's leaving I expressed my satis- 
faction at having had the interview with him. 

Gave a letter of introduction to-day to Samuel B. 
Chase of Rochester, New York, to President Jones of 
Texas. Mr. C. came introduced to me by Gov. 
Wright, Lieut.-Governor Gardner, and other distin- 
guished citizens of N. York. 

SATURDAY, 25th October, 1845.— The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day, all the members 
present. 



!8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 73 

I read to the Cabinet the rough draft of what I pro- 
posed to say in my message to Congress on the sub- 
ject of Oregon. A conversation took place on the 
subject, from which I perceived no difference of 
opinion on any material point. 

I called the attention of the Cabinet to the im- 
portance of having their annual Reports prepared 
and laid before me by the 15th of November, or 
sooner if they could do so, and informed them that 
I wished to examine them fully and minutely before 
they were communicated to Congress. 

SUNDAY, 26th October, 1845. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day with Mrs. Polk & 
Miss Rucker. 

MONDAY, 27th October, 1845. — Handed to Judge 
Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, for his examination the pas- 
sages which I had prepared for my message to Con- 
gress on the subjects of the Tariff and the Constitu- 
tional Treasury. 

Mr. T. W. Ward of Boston called on me to-day. 
He told me that he was the agent of Baring Brothers 
& Co. in London; that he [was] my political friend 
& the friend of my administration. From his con- 
versation I soon discovered that the object of his 
visit was to obtain information in relation to the in- 
tentions of the Government of the U. S. on the Oregon 
question. I remained silent whilst he continued to 
speak at some length on that subject. He spoke of 
the prosperous condition [of the two countries, and] 
of the great interest which both nations had in pre- 



74 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Oct. 

serving peace. He said the Barings & Co. were 
largely engaged in business all over the world and 
it was of great interest to them to [know] whether 
there was [to be] peace or war. He said he had 
constantly assured them that there was no danger of 
war, but that he had heard in New York, as coming 
directly from Washington, that I had determined to 
claim the whole [of] Oregon territory, & [he] in- 
timated, without saying so in direct terms, if that 
was the case that there was danger of war. He said 
he did not expect me to communicate to him any 
thing which was improper, but that perhaps I 
[would] feel at liberty to say in General terms that 
the existing relations of peace would not be changed, 
that he might know how to make his commercial 
arrangements. He said his mercantile friends had 
often consulted him of late to know whether it would 
be safe to enter into commercial arrangements 
which it would be unsafe to enter into if there was 
a probability of war between the U. S. & Great 
Brittain about the Oregon question. After he had 
made his statement I said to him, in substance, that 
our general policy had always been peace; I said 
also that when I commenced my administration I 
found the Oregon negotiation pending, that I had 
given my attention to the subject, and that all it 
would be proper for me to say was that the ne- 
gotiation was still pending. I declined giving any 
opinion of its probable result. I said to him that 
no one but myself & my Cabinet could know what 
had occurred or what was likely to occur, & that 
until the negotiation was terminated it would be 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 75 

contrary to all the usages of Diplomacy for either 
party to communicate what had transpired. I said 
in conclusion that if Lord Aberdeen were to disclose 
to the public what had transpired, in the present 
stage of the negotiation, I would think very strange 
of it. He learned nothing, and after apologizing 
for making the inquiry he retired. The conversa- 
tion took place about 2 O'Clock P. M. Whilst I 
was at dinner about 4 O'Clock Mr. Buchanan sent 
in to me by my porter an official note from Mr. 
Pakenham on the subject of Oregon dated 25th Inst, 
which Mr. Buchanan had not received when he 
called at my office at half past 12 O'Clock to-day. 
I have a strong suspicion that Mr. Ward called 
at the instance of Baring Brothers & Co., and that 
Mr. Pakenham was advised of his call, & probably 
held back his note of the 25th Inst, until after he 
learned the result of Mr. Ward's interview with me. 

TUESDAY, 28th October, 1845. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Navy, who was absent on 
a visit to a sick child at Philadelphia. 

The only subject of interest discussed was what 
was the proper answer to the note of the Brittish 
Minister of the 25th Inst, delivered to Mr. Buchanan 
on the 27th. Mr. Buchanan read a draft of an an- 
swer which he had prepared. Several suggestions 
of amendment and alteration were made by the 
members of the Cabinet and myself. Mr. Buchanan 
was desirous to leave the door open for further ne- 
gotiation; the draft of his note was conciliatory and, 



76 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Oct. 

as I thought, conceded too much. Mr. Buchanan 
repeated what he had often before said, that he was 
willing to settle the question [at] 49 ° degrees of North 
Latitude yielding the Cap[e?] of Vancouver's Is- 
land to Great Brittain but not the free navigation of 
the Columbia River. My own view as expressed 
was, that our proposition of 49 had been rejected 
and had been subsequently withdrawn by us; that 
it would not be renewed, and that no other proposi- 
tion would be made by us; that if Great Brittain 
chose to make a proposition we would, of course, 
consider it; but that I was satisfied that no propo- 
sition would be made by Great Brittain which we 
could accept. I said further that we could say 
nothing which would have the appearance of in- 
viting Great Brittain to make another proposition, 
but that she should be left to act voluntarily & make 
a proposition or not as her Minister chose. This 
was the substance of what occurred. It was agreed 
that the answer to Mr. Pakenham's [note] was very 
important, that every part of it should be well con- 
sidered and, there being some difference of opinion 
and some difficulty in framing the proper answer 
so as to present my views, I remarked that I would 
take Mr. Buchanan's draft of the answer, and that 
we would sleep on the subject; and at my sugges- 
tion it was agreed that the Cabinet would meet again 
to consider the subject on to-morrow morning at 9 
O'Clock. 

All the members of the Cabinet retired except the 
Secretary of the Treasury, who remained to explain 
to me some promotions and appointments which 



i&45] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 77 

were about to be made in the Revenue Cutter serv- 
ice. These explanations were made, & the Secre- 
tary having brought over the Commissions with him 
I signed them. As Mr. Walker was about retiring 
I invited him to call again at 6 O'Clock to con- 
sider with me of the draft of the answer to Mr. 
Pakenham's note. At six O'Clock he called ac- 
cordingly, when we took the subject up & discussed 
it; he suggested amendments and I suggested others 
of Mr. Buchanan's draft of the answer. We both 
reduced our respective suggestions to writing. Be- 
fore finishing I was called to the parlour to see 
company, this being reception evening at the Presi- 
dent's Mansion. Shortly afterwards Mr. Walker 
came into the parlour. After the company retired 
we returned to my office, and agreed in the amend- 
ments which should be proposed to Mr. Buchanan's 
draft. Mr. Walker retired at about 10 O'Clock 
P.M. 

Dr. Wm. C. Tate of N. C. was among the visitors 
who were present in the parlour this evening. He 
is the Step-father of my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, 
jr., having married my brother's widow. 

Wednesday, 29th October, 1845. — I rose early as 
is my habit & after taking my morning's walk 
made a new draft of the amendments which I 
thought proper to be made to the draft of Mr. 
Buchanan['s answer] to Mr. Pakenham's note of 
the 25th Instant. The Cabinet assembled at 9 
O'Clock A. M., the hour which was appointed on 
yesterday, the Secretary of the Navy being still ab- 



78 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Oct. 

sent. I submitted the proposed modifications, 
which were discussed and with some modifications 
agreed to. Mr. Buchanan made a new draft con- 
formably to them. I declined in the answer to 
renew the proposition which had been rejected, or 
to make any new proposition, but left the Brittish 
Minister to take his own course. I declined to in- 
vite him to make any proposition, or to give any 
intimation what our decision on any proposition he 
might make would be. For a more full understand- 
ing of the character of Mr. Pakenham's note of the 
25th Instant, and of the answer which was prepared 
to it, I refer to copies which I will place on my 
files, and also to a private letter which I wrote to- 
day to Mr. McLane, U. S. Minister at London. 
After the answer had been agreed [to] & copied 
by Mr. Buchanan, he, Mr. B., remarked that Mr. 
Pakenham might desire to consider his note un- 
official and withdraw it, when he held a conference 
with him, which he proposed to do immediately. 
To which I replied that he must decide whether 
his note was to be regarded as official or not, before 
he could see our answer or know its contents. Mr. 
Buchanan insisted with some earnestness that our 
answer should be read by him to Mr. Pakenham, 
and that Mr. P. might then be at liberty to con- 
sider his note and the answer official or not, and 
said if this was not done his honor would be affected, 
as Mr. Pakenham, when he parted with him on the 
27th, the day he handed him the note, had remarked 
that his note of the 25th might be regarded as official 
or not, and that he, Mr. Buchanan, had mentioned 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 7 g 

this fact to me. I replied he had mentioned it in- 
cidentally, but that, as I had understood him, we were 
to decide whether we chose to consider it official or 
not. That for myself I had been considering it as 
official, as I supposed we all had, at two Cabinet 
meetings in [which] we had been preparing the 
answer. Mr. Buchanan still insisted that the answer 
should be read to Mr. Pakenham, and that he, Mr. 
P., might then be at liberty to withdraw his note 
or not as he pleased. I positively refused and told 
Mr. Buchanan with earnestness and emphasis that 
I would not permit our views as contained in the 
answer to be read to Mr. P. or the substance in any 
way made known to him, unless he first decided 
that his note of the 25th was official and was to go 
on the files of the Department, that if he so decided 
Mr. Buchanan would deliver our answer to him, 
otherwise he would with-hold [it] and not give him 
any statement of its contents. I repeated to Mr. 
Buchanan that when he met Mr. Pakenham, as he 
said he expected to do at the State Department im- 
mediately, he would inform him distinctly that he 
must decide whether he wished his note of the 25th 
[to] be official or not; if he decided it was official 
then he would deliver the answer to him; but that 
if he said it was unofficial that he would inform him 
that I had no answer to give or any information to 
impart to him on the subject. Mr. Buchanan said 
he would follow my directions. He did so, how- 
ever, most reluctantly, as was manifest from his man- 
ner & the objections he urged to such a course. I 
said again, if Mr. Pakenham has any further com- 



8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Oct. 

munication to make on the subject of Oregon, let 
him make it officially, and then we will answer it; 
but that I would not permit him to write a note, and 
after he [had] heard our answer to it withdraw his 
note & consider all that had occurred, both note and 
answer, to be unofficial & not to go on the record; 
that I would not exhibit our hand to him in any 
such way. Mr. Buchanan retired. Before the con- 
versation about delivering the answer or not deliver- 
ing [it], or reading it, occurred, the Secretary of 
War had retired to his office, having left my office 
while Mr. Buchanan was preparing the answer as 
corrected & agreed to. This conversation took 
place in the presence of the Sec. of the Treasury, 
the P. M. Gen'l, the Atto.-Gen'l, & my private sec- 
retary, J. Knox Walker. 

Mr. Buchanan retired and returned in about an 
hour, and reported to me that he had met Mr. 
Pakenham at the State Department and made known 
to him my decision that he must elect whether his 
note of the 25th was official before any answer would 
be given; that if he decided it was official, he had 
prepared an answer by my direction which he was 
ready to deliver to him, but that if he elected that 
it was unofficial and was not to go on record he 
could not deliver the answer to him. Mr. B. said 
to me that Mr. Pakenham paused and seemed to 
be in doubt what to do, and made some remark of 
his anxiety to see some way to continue the nego- 
tiation; Mr. Buchanan said he remarked to him 
that he could not expect us to abandon the ground 
we had taken in the negotiation; whereupon Mr. 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 81 

Pakenham withdrew his note of the 25th Instant, 
and then the interview ended. I said to Mr. Bu- 
chanan it was his remark that had induced him to 
take that course, and that it would have been better 
if he had said nothing and left him to decide for 
himself. Mr. Buchanan then proposed (this being 
the last day that letters could go from Washington 
in time to go to London by the Steamer of the 1st 
proximo) to write a private letter to Mr. McLane, 
our Minister at London, and enclose to him a copy 
of Mr. Pakenham's note of the 25th which was now 
withdrawn, & of the answer to it which had been 
prepared but not delivered. He afterwards did so 
& read to me his letter. 1 I also wrote to Mr. Mc- 
Lane an unofficial letter & kept a copy. 

It was manifest to me in the whole discussions in 
Cabinet on yesterday & to-day, that Mr. Buchanan 
disapproved the course which he saw I inclined to 
take, and that he was laboring to prevent it. In- 
deed he said in the discussion on yesterday that he 
differed with all the Cabinet, and that he was anxious 
to settle the question, that he wished to leave the 
door for a further proposition open, but that [if] 
I was resolved to accept nothing less than what had 
been offered by us and rejected, that ended the mat- 
ter. He said repeatedly during the preparation of 
the letter that as it would express my view [and] 
that of the rest of the Cabinet, he would word it 
precisely as I directed, & he copied accordingly 
from my manuscript amendments to his first draft, 

1 Buchanan to McLane, Oct. 28, 1845, Moore, Buchanan, VI, 
285. 



82 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Oct. 

in drawing off the answer as finally agreed. I think 
it unfortunate that he made any remark to Mr. 
Pakenham which indicated to him what my settled 
decision was, as I think Mr. Pakenham's note & the 
answer should have been official. Mr. B.'s remark, 
I have no doubt, prevented this from being, and 
induced Mr. P. to withdraw his note. The result 
of the whole is that after two Cabinet meetings and 
much anxious discussion the matter ended where it 
began. 

THURSDAY, JOth October, 1845. — I directed my 
Private Secretary to call on Mr. Buchanan for 
copies of Mr. Pakenham's note of the 25th Inst, on 
the subject of the Oregon negotiation which he 
withdrew on yesterday, having declined to have it 
considered official; and a copy of the answer to it, 
which had been agreed to in Cabinet on yesterday 
& which I directed not to be delivered to Mr. Paken- 
ham or its contents made known to him unless he 
decided that his note of the 25th was official. I 
directed my Private Secretary to procure also a copy 
of Mr. Buchanan's private letter to Mr. McLane, 
U. S. Minister to London, written on the afternoon 
of yesterday. My Private Secretary procured these 
copies, or rather made them himself as directed. 
They will be carefully preserved by me for future 
reference, as they may hereafter become important. 
The answer which was prepared to Mr. Paken- 
ham's note of the 25th Inst, contains the decision 
to which I have irrevocably come in the Oregon 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 83 

question, and its preservation is especially impor- 
tant. 1 

Mr. Buchanan did not call to-day, which was not 
usual with him, as with rare exceptions he was in the 
habit of calling every day. He sent over to me a 
number of foreign despatches brought by the Steamer 
which arrived at New York on yesterday, and among 
them a private letter from Mr. McLane on the Ore- 
gon question. 

At 12 O'Clock today I received in my office the 
Chiefs of the Pottawatimie Tribe of Indians, who 
were on a visit to Washington on the business of 
their Nation. There were seven or eight of them 
painted & in full Indian costume; others were in 
citizen's dress. They held a talk with me through 
an Interpreter in the presence of the Secretary of 
War, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and many 
other persons, who had been attracted to the Presi- 
dent's Mansion by their approach. They retired ap- 
parently well satisfied at the manner [in which] I 
received them and [with] what I said to them. They 
were informed that the Secretary of War would con- 
fer further with them on the subject of their busi- 
ness. 

I held a confidential conversation with Lieut. Gil- 
lespie 2 of the Marine Corps, about 8 O'Clock P. M., 
on the subject of a secret mission on which he was 

1 This document is now a part of the collection of Polk papers 
belonging to the Chicago Historical Society. 

2 Archibald H. Gillespie, First Lieutenant U. S. A., 1838; re- 
signed 1854. 



84 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Oct. 

about to go to California. His secret instructions 
& the letter to Mr. Larkin, 1 U. S. Consul at Mon- 
terey, in the Department of State, will explain the 
object of his mission. 

Emanuel Fisher, the man who behaved rudely in 
my office on the 2nd of September last, 2 made his ap- 
pearance in my office to-day. He said he wished to 
make an apology for the manner in which he had 
acted. I told him it was passed [past] and I cared 
nothing about it; and was willing to forget it. He 
then begged me for money. I declined to give him 
any. 

Friday, jist October, 1845. — I saw no persons on 
visits of ceremony in my office to-day, and but few on 
business; until evening, when I saw company in the 
parlour. I was engaged during the greater part of 
the day in preparing the draft of my message to 
Congress. 

SATURDAY, 1st November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. 

After conversing on other public subjects I read 
to the Cabinet what I had written for my message to 
Congress, on the subject of the Tariff, and the estab- 
lishment of a Constitutional Treasury, and the sep- 
aration of the moneys of the public from banks. 

1 The letter to Larkin is printed in Moore, Buchanan, VI, 275. 

2 The visit referred to was made September 3 ; see Diary entry 
for that day. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 85 

There was a concurrence in my views on these sub- 
jects by all the members of the Cabinet, except Mr. 
Buchanan on one point in referen[ce] to the Tariff. 
That point was this. I had recommended, among 
other things in the paper which I read, the abolition 
of the Minimum principle and specific duties and the 
substitution in their place of ad valorem duties. Mr. 
Buchanan approved of the abolition of the Minimum 
principle, and generally of the ad valorem principle, 
but thought there were some articles such as iron, 
coal, sugar, and a few others, which could be weighed 
or measured, on which his opinion was there should 
be a specific duty. If my views were so modified as 
to accept these few articles, but retaining the ad 
valorem principle as a general rule, he was satisfied 
with what I proposed to insert in the Message on 
the subject of the Tariff. The subject was dis- 
cussed at some length by different members of the 
Cabinet and myself, and was postponed for further 
consideration at a future meeting. 

I gave to Mr. Buchanan the manuscript of what I 
had written for the message on the subject of Oregon, 
and requested him to examine it, as soon as his 
leisure would permit, and make to me any sugges- 
tions which might occur to him on the subject. I 
informed the Cabinet that I desired to have the an- 
nual Reports from the several Departments laid be- 
fore me on or before the 15th Inst, that I might 
have time to examine them, and have my Message 
completed some days before the meeting of Congress. 



86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Nov. 

SUNDAY, 2nd November, 1 845. — Attended the 
Methodist church (called the Foundary church) 1 to- 
day, in company with my Private Secretary, J. Knox 
Walker. It was an inclement day, there being rain 
from an early hour in the morning; & Mrs. Polk 
and the ladies of my household did not attend church 
today. Mrs. Polk being a member of the Presby- 
terian Church I generally attend that Church with 
her, though my opinions and predilections are in 
favour of the Methodist Church. 

This was my birth-day, being fifty years old, 
having been born according to the family Register 
in the family Bible, corroborated by the account 
given me by my mother, on the 2nd of November, 

1795. 
The text today was from the Acts of the Apostles, 

Ch. 15, v. 31 — " Because he hath appointed a day, 
in the which he will judge the world in righteous- 
ness, by the man whom he hath ordained." It was 
Communion day in the church, and the sermon 
was solemn and forcible. It awakened the reflec- 
tion that I had lived fifty years, and that before fifty 
years more would expire, I would be sleeping with 
the generations which have gone before me. I 
thought of the vanity of this world's honours, how 
little they would profit me half a century hence, 
and that it was time for me to be " putting my House 
in Order." 

1 The Foundry Methodist Church at the corner of 14th and 
G streets. The edifice has since given place to a business block. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 8 7 

MONDAY, 3rd November, 1845. — Mj'r Noland, 1 
Commissioner of Public Buildings, called this morn- 
ing, and related to me a conversation which he had 
lately held with Francis P. Blair, 2 late editor of the 
Globe. He (Noland) said he had been told that 
Mr. Blair had advised me to remove him from office ; 
that he called on Blair on the subject, who denied 
it, but said I had sent for him some time ago and 
made some inquiry of him about several offices in 
this District, and among them the U. S. Attorney, 
the Marshall, Keeper of the Penitentiary, Com- 
missioner of Public Buildings, &c, but that he had 
declined giving me any opinion. Noland said that 
Blair informed him he did not intend to put him- 
self under any obligation to me by recommending 
any one for office; Noland said Blair was soured to- 
wards me (to use his own expression) and informed 
him that I had offered him, Blair, the Mission to 
Spain, & that he had declined it. I told Mr. No- 
land that there was a mistake about my having 
offered to Mr. Blair the Mission to Spain; that I had 
never held a word's conversation with him on the 
subject; that I had been informed by Mr. Buchanan 

1 Major William Noland. For the facts about his removal 
from office see Diary entry for Sept. 4, 1846. 

2 Francis Preston Blair of Virginia, 1 791-1876, best known 
as the editor of the Globe, the official organ of the Democratic 
party during the administrations of Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, 
and Tyler. The reasons for his forced retirement from this posi- 
tion at the hands of Polk have been variously stated. For Polk's 
own account see Diary entry for April 25, 1846. 



88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Nov. 

that he had held some conversation with Blair, but 
that the Mission to Spain had not been offered to 
him by my authority. I told Noland that I had un- 
derstood Blair had expressed friendship for me and 
that I was surprised to hear from [him] that Blair 
was soured & unfriendly. Here the conversation 
with Mr. Noland ceased and he retired. 

The facts about the Mission to Spain are these. 
Sometime after Mr. Blair retired from the Globe 
and Mr. Ritchie had taken charge of it, and when 
Mr. Blair having retired professing [good] feeling 
& friendship for the administration, and had made a 
manly publication to that effect in the Globe before 
he retired, Mr. Buchanan held a conversation with 
me in relation to the good feeling with which we 
both supposed Blair had retired, that he deserved 
credit for it, &c. Mr. Buchanan suggested that he 
would be a suitable person to fill the Mission, and 
he thought he would be pleased with it. I con- 
curred with Mr. Buchanan that he was well quali- 
fied, and intimated a willingness, if on further con- 
sideration it should be deemed proper, to appoint 
him to that station if he desired. I did not authorize 
Mr. Buchanan to offer the Mission to him, and he 
did not so understand me, as he afterwards informed 
me. Sometime afterwards Mr. Buchanan told me 
he had rec'd [?] a note from Blair declining the 
Mission to Spain, & I think read the note [to] me. 
Mr. Buchanan expressed surprise at receiving the 
note, as he had not been authorized by me to offer 
him the Mission, and had not in fact offered it to 
him. He said he had held some conversation with 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 89 

Blair and asked him how he would like it, but that 
he did not offer it to him, and that Blair had wholly 
misunderstood. He said, however, it was not worth 
while to correct his (Blair's) misapprehension of 
what he had said, especially as he declined it. I 
record these facts now to prevent misapprehension 
hereafter, and especially in consequence of the con- 
versation held by Blair with Noland, as detailed to 
me by Noland. 

So far as Noland's office is concerned [?] Blair 
did tell me, while I was at Mr. Latimer's about the 
1 st of July, when the President's Mansion was un- 
dergoing repairs, that Noland had no claim to re- 
tain his office, and he recommended Dr. Gunton of 
this City [as] a proper person to be appointed in his 
place. He also recommended Mr. Cattman for 
Warden of the Penitentiary, who was appointed. 
Nothing of importance occu[r]red today. I had 
some visitors, but not as many as usual. I devoted 
most of my time to official business, and the prepara- 
tion of my message to Congress. 

TUESDAY, 4th November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Various public subjects were considered, but 
nothing necessary to record occurred. 

Mr. Buchanan returned to me to-day my draft 
of my message to Congress on the subject of Oregon, 
with a condensed draft of his own modifying and 
softening the tone of mine. I prefer the bold ground 
which I have taken in my draft, but will further 
examine the subject before I revise my own draft. 



po JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Nov. 

Wednesday, 5/A November, 184s- — Saw but few 
persons to-day. The Secretary of State introduced 
Christopher Hughes late Charge d'Affaires to the 
Netherlands and Dabn[e]y S. Carr, Esq., 1 Minis- 
ter Resident at Constantinople, who was on a visit 
to the U. States on leave of absence. I suppose they 
called to pay their respects. After the ordinary sal- 
utations, however, they engaged in conversation be- 
tween themselves about the fine arts, Power's Eve, 
Fisherman Boy, and Greek Slave; 2 and about the 
distinguished persons they had seen abroad. They 
seemed to be well satisfied with themselves, and it 
was very clear that they had a good opinion of them- 
selves. Their conduct was scarcely respectful to me, 
though I suppose they did not intend to be disrespect- 
ful. Altogether their deportment was highly im- 
polite. They said not a word in reference to their 
respective Missions,' or public affairs abroad, and 
were so busily engaged in their conversation with 
each other that they gave me no opportunity to make 
a single inquiry. The Secretary of State sat entirely 
silent and scarcely spoke a word during their visit. 

Thursday, 6th November, 1845. — Saw Mr. 
Buchanan and referred in conversation with him to 
the conduct of Messrs. Hughes & Carr, on their visit 
to me on yesterday, and inquired of him if he ob- 

1 Dabney S. Carr, U. S. minister to Turkey, 1 843-1 849. 

2 Hiram Powers, the sculptor, 1 805-1 873. His most famous 
work is the " Greek Slave " produced in 1843, now in the Cor- 
coran gallery at Washington. Other popular pieces are his statue 
of " Eve Tempted " and " The Fisher Boy." 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 9* 

served it. He said he did, and he thought they had 
acted very impolitely, but he had no idea that they 
intended it. I gave him my opinion of their vain 
conduct, in which he entirely concurred. I re- 
marked that they had been long enough abroad to 
have their heads turned, that I had been, up to the 
visit, a good friend of Mr. Carr, but that I thought 
it was almost time for him to remain at home, and let 
some other take his place. 

At 10 O'Clock to-night Mr. Bancroft, the Secre- 
tary of the Navy, called with dispatches from Com- 
modore Conner commanding the Home Squadron 
in the Gulf of Mexico, 1 to the effect that the Gov- 
ernment of Mexico were willing to renew diplomatic 
relations, & to receive a Minister from the U. States. 

FRIDAY, yth November, 1845. — Saw the Secretary 
of State, and held a conversation with him on the sub- 
ject of our Mexican Relations. He agreed with me 
that a Minister should be appointed to Mexico, and 
proceed to the Mexican Capital without delay; and 
that it was of great importance that his appointment 
should not be made public, so as to enable the Repre- 
sentatives of Foreign Governments and the English 
and French Ministers to exert an influence to em- 
barrass or thwart the attainment of the objects of his 
Mission. We agreed upon the character of the in- 
structions to be given to him on the subjects of bound- 
ary and the claims of our citizens on Mexico. Mr. 
Buchanan left with the understanding that he would 

1 David Conner, 1 792-1 856, commanded the U. S. squadron 
in the Gulf of Mexico in 1845 and 1846. 



Q2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Nov. 

have the instructions [ready] to be submitted to the 
Cabinet on to-morrow. This he could readily do, 
having some weeks ago, when such a step was con- 
templated, made a rough draft of part of the in- 
structions. 

SATURDAY, 8th November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. Mr. [Buchanan] submitted to the Cabinet the 
instructions which he had prepared for the Minister 
to be appointed to Mexico. They were discussed, 
amended, and agreed to unanimously. It was 
agreed that the contemplated appointment of a Min- 
ister should be kept secret for the present, for the 
reasons assigned in my journal of yesterday. Mr. 
Trist, 1 the Chief Clerk of the Department of State, 
was the only person to whom it was to be communi- 
cated. In the afternoon Mr. Trist and my Private 
Secretary, at the office of the latter, commenced 
copying the instructions 2 and preparing other copies 
of despatches for the Minister. 

Miss Elizabeth Armstrong, 3 who had been to 
Liverpool with her father, came to the President's 
Mansion, and remained as an inmate of the family 
during her stay in Washington. 

1 Nicholas Philip Trist of Virginia, Chief Clerk of the De- 
partment of State 1 845-1 848, special commissioner to Mexico 
in 1848 where he negotiated the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

2 Printed in Moore, Buchanan, VI, 294; also in S. Ex. Doc. 52, 
30 Cong. 1 Sess. 71. 

3 Daughter of General Robert Armstrong of Tennessee, consul 
at Liverpool 1 845-1 852. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 93 

SUNDAY, Qth November, 1845. — Attended the 
Presbyterian church to-day, with Mrs. Polk, Miss 
Rucker, and Miss Armstrong. 

Dr. Parrott, Confidential Agent of this Govern- 
ment in Mexico for several months past, arrived in 
Washington by evening Boat, Mr. Buchanan called 
over to inform me. I did not see Dr. Parrott. He 
was the bearer of the original note of the Secretary 
of Foreign Affairs of Mexico to the American Con- 
sul at Mexico, agreeing to receive a Minister from 
the United States. 

MONDAY, 10th November, 1 845. — Saw and had a 
full conversation with Dr. Parrott, who had been in 
Mexico as a Confidential Agent of the U. S. for some 
months, and who arrived at Washington last night. 
He confirmed the opinion I had entertained that 
Mexico was anxious to settle the pending difficulties 
between the two countries, including those of bound- 
ary. I informed Dr. Parrott that I wished him to 
return to Mexico as Secretary of Legation to the 
Minister whom I intended to appoint this day, and 
told him the Hon. John Slidell of New Orleans was 
the person I intended to appoint as Minister. He was 
not anxious to accept the office of Secretary of Lega- 
tion, but agreed to do so, and said he would be ready 
to leave in about ten days. At 10 O'Clock P. M., 
the instructions and all the documents referred to 
being copied, I signed the Commission of the Hon. 
John Slidell as Envoy Extraordinary & Minister 
Plenipotentiary to Mexico. It was countersigned 
by the Secretary of State at my office; and the pack- 



94 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Nov. 

age containing it with the instructions and other 
papers, was delivered to Lieut. Lanier of the Navy, 
who was instructed to proceed with it to Pensacola 
and deliver it to Commodore Conner, or the Com- 
mandant of the Station to whom it was enclosed. 
Lieut. Lanier did not know what the package con- 
tained. The Secretary of the Navy was present, and 
forwarded a despatch from his Department to the 
Commander of the Squadron on Station at Pensacola. 
Mr. Trist and my Private Secretary were the only 
persons except the Cabinet who knew of these pro- 
ceedings. I wrote to Mr. Slidell on the 7th Inst, to 
proceed to Pensacola, to which point his commission 
and instructions would be forwarded to him. (See 
my letter to him and also one of this date, & also sev- 
eral others of prior date in my letter book) . 

TUESDAY, nth November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting today, all the members pres- 
ent. I read to the Cabinet the passages of my Mes- 
sage which I had prepared relating to Mexico. The 
Secretary of the Treasury read to the Cabinet that 
portion of his Annual Report to Congress on the 
finances, which related to the tariff & a reduction of 
duties. Mr. Buchanan expressed his objections to 
the doctrine which it contained. He remarked that 
it was a strong free trade document, and was in its 
doctrine opposed to his whole course on the subject 
during his whole public life. He objected especially 
to that part of it which recommended the abolition 
of specific duties and the substitution of ad valorem 
duties in their stead. The opinions of the members 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 95 

of the Cabinet were not taken formally, as the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury said he merely read it consult- 
atively; an informal conversation took place in ref- 
erence to different parts of it. 

Other public subjects were considered, chiefly re- 
lating to Foreign Affairs. 

WEDNESDAY, 1 2th November, 1845- — Nothing 
worthy to be recorded occurred to-day. I did not see 
company, but was engaged in preparing my message 
to Congress. 

A few persons were admitted into my office on their 
special request. 

THURSDAY, IJth November, 1845. — I did not see 
company today, but was occupied in preparing my 
message to Congress. 

A few persons were admitted on their special re- 
quest; among the[m] C. P. Van Ness, late Collector 
at New York, 1 who made known to me his desire to 
be appointed Minister to Spain or to Mexico. 

FRIDAY, 14th November, 1845. — Saw but few 
persons to-day; was engaged chiefly in preparing my 
message. 

SATURDAY, 15th November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. I read to the Cabinet that portion of my Mes- 
sage which I had completed, viz.: the Introduction, 
[that part] relating to Texas, Mexico, Oregon, an 

1 Cornelius Peter Van Ness, 1 782-1 852, minister to Spain 
1829-1837, Collector of the Port of New York 1 844-1 845. 



96 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Nov. 

increase of the Navy, graduation of the public lands 
and pre-emptions to settlers on the same, the Tariff, 
the Constitutional Treasury; and a paragraph at the 
conclusion announcing the death of Gen'l Jackson. 
I invited suggestions from the Cabinet. Some were 
made, but chiefly of verbal alterations not affecting 
substance. The balance of the message I informed 
the Cabinet I would prepare within a very short 
time and submit to them. Had a Dinner party to- 
day, consisting of over thirty persons. 

SUNDAY, 1 6th November, 1845. — Attended Doc- 
tor Lowrie's (Presbyterian) church today, with Mrs. 
Polk, Mr. Buchanan (Secretary of State), and my 
nephew, Marshall T. Polk, jr., who had leave of ab- 
sence to-day from Georgetown College. 

MONDAY, 17th November, 1845. — Mr. Senator 
Allen of Ohio 1 called in the forenoon and again in 
the evening. I held a long conversation with him 
about public affairs, stated to him in confidence what 
had occurred in the Oregon Negotiation, and what 
recommendations I would make in the message. He 
approved my course. We conversed on other public 
subjects & my action upon them since the 4th of 
March last. He approved what had been done. 
He was in fine spirits, and will, I have no doubt, give 
an ardent support to the administration. 

1 William Allen, 1806-1879, Senator from Ohio 1837-1849; 
elected Governor of Ohio in 1873 and defeated for reelection by 
Rutherford B. Hayes on the Greenback issue. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 97 

My Private Secretary commenced copying my 
message to-day. 

I did not see many persons to-day. 

TUESDAY, 1 8th November, 1 845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Various public subjects, but chiefly those to be 
embraced in the Annual Executive Reports to be 
communicated to Congress, were discussed. 

After the Cabinet dispersed I was occupied in pre- 
paring additional paragraphs for the message, and 
correcting & revising those which I had already writ- 
ten. 

Wednesday, igth November, 1845. — Was occu- 
pied to-day with the message and concluded it, with 
the exception of a [some] passages to be inserted 
when the statistical information to which they will 
relate is furnished to me by the Executive Depart- 
ments. 

Mr. Buchanan called in the evening with ad- 
ditional instructions which he had prepared for Mr. 
Slidell, the Minister appointed to Mexico on the 
10th Inst., which I approved. 

Mr. Buchanan then informed me that he had made 
up his mind not to ask the vacant judgeship on the 
bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, 
but to remain in the Cabinet. I told him I was grat- 
ified to hear it, as I was entirely satisfied with him 
and would have parted with him reluctantly. 
Though Mr. Buchanan differs with me on some 



98 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Nov. 

points, on the Oregon question and on the tariff, yet 
he had not in consequence of such difference em- 
barrassed me but had shown a willingness to carry 
out my views instead of his own, and I was desirous 
to retain him in the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan, after 
announcing his determination to remain in the Cabi- 
net, stated that he preferred a place on the Supreme 
Bench to any other under the Government; that he 
would rather be Chief Justice of that Court than 
President of the U. S. He said he did not desire to 
be President and never had; and now that he re- 
mained in the Cabinet he did not wish it, but would 
do all in his power to prevent his friends in Pennsyl- 
vania from presenting his name for that office, and 
he said I must not consider that any movement which 
might take place connecting his name with the 
Presidency by the people in Pennsylvania or else- 
where had his approbation. On the contrary he 
said he would suppress anything of the kind if he 
could. I told him he knew my position; that I re- 
tired at the end of my present term; that I would 
take no part in selecting the candidate of my party to 
succeed me, but would leave that to my political 
friends ; I stated further my belief that no man would 
ever be elected President who was prominently be- 
fore the Public for that office for two or three years 
or a longer time before the nomination. I instanced 
to him the case of Mr. Crawford, Clay, and others, 
and told him that I had confidence in his declarations 
that he did not desire the office, but if he did it would 
be his true policy to prevent his friends from bring- 
ing his name forward a long time in advance. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 99 

Mr. Buchanan had some days [ago] (on Saturday 
last) enquired of me if he were not appointed to the 
present vacancy on the Bench and any other should 
occur during my term, whether I would feel at lib- 
erty to appoint him, or whether I would confine my- 
self in the selection to the Circuit in which the 
vacancy might occur. He referred to this again in 
the conversation to-day. I told him I would not 
feel bound to confine myself to the Circuit, and un- 
less strong circumstances existed to prevent it I would 
feel inclined to gratify him, if when the contingency 
occurred he still desired it. I remarked that in the 
event of a vacancy in the Virginia Circuit I would 
feel bound to appoint Judge Mason, the Atto. Gen'l 
of the U. States; but that in regard to any other Cir- 
cuit I would be at perfect liberty to make the selec- 
tion within or without the Circuit. Mr. B. retired, 
as far as I could discover well satisfied. I made 
no promise to appoint Mr. B. further than is above 
stated. 

THURSDAY, 20th November, 184^. — Mr. Bu- 
chanan spent the greater part of to-day at my office, 
examining the parts of my message which I had pre- 
pared relating to Texas, Mexico, and Oregon. He 
made several suggestions of amendment, which were 
merely verbal, not affecting substance, some of which 
I adopted and others I did not. Upon the Mexican 
and Oregon parts of it, but especially the latter, he 
proposed modifications softening and modifying the 
tone of the language employed, and making the paper 
less firm and bold than I had prepared [proposed?]. 



ioo JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Nov. 

To these suggestions I did not yield. He left his 
memoranda in pencil on the manuscript. 

To-day I signed a commission for William S. 
Parrott as Secretary of Legation to Mexico. It was 
prepared by Mr. Trist, Ch. Clk. of the State De- 
partment, and was known to no other officer of the 
Government except the Cabinet. It was not made 
public, for the reasons stated in this diary of the 10th 
Instant for withholding from the public the ap- 
pointment of the Hon. John Slidell as Minister to 
Mexico. Mr. Parrott is to leave by the Southern 
Boat to-night for Pensacola, on his way to Mexico. 
He is the bearer of further instructions to Mr. 
Slidell. 

FRIDAY, 2 1st November, 184 5. — Saw but few 
persons to-day; was much engaged in my office. 
Held another talk with the Pottawatamie Chiefs; 
learned from them that they had been unable to agree 
with the U. S. Commissioners appointed to treat with 
[them]. The Commissioners were Gen'l Gibson and 
Maj'r T. P. Andrews. They said that the Commis- 
sioners had shut the door on them. I told them that 
from what I had learned I thought there had not been 
a proper understanding on their part of the prop- 
ositions made by the Commissioners, and that to en- 
able them to hold another talk if they wished it, the 
door would be opened again. With this they ap- 
peared to be pleased, and Monday the 24th Inst, was 
appointed for them to meet the Commissioners 
again. 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 101 

SATURDAY, 22nd November, 1845. — Was much 
engaged in my office today, and saw but few persons. 

Gave a Diplomatic Dinner at 5 O'Clock P. M. to- 
day, to which all the Diplomatic Corps & my Cab- 
inet, with the ladies of their families, were invited. 
The Dinner passed off pleasantly. 

SUNDAY, 23rd November, 1845. — Attended the 
Rev. Mr. Knox's church (Presbyterian) with Mrs. 
Polk today. 

Rec'd a letter from the Hon. John Slidell by the 
evening mail, acknowledging the Receipt of my let- 
ters of the 6th and 7th Inst., and stating that he would 
leave New Orleans on the 17th Inst, for Pensacola, 
on his Mission to Mexico. 

MONDAY, 24th November, 1845. — Received some 
company today, and among others eight or ten mem- 
bers of Congress, who called to pay their respects. 

Transacted official business and saw several public 
officers on business. Among them the Commis- 
sioners appointed to treat with the Pottawatamie 
Indians, accompanied by the Secretary of War and 
the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, called and held 
a conversation con[cern?]ing the pending treaty 
with that tribe. 

TUESDAY, 25th November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. My message to Congress at the approaching 
session was read at my request by Mr. Bancroft. 



io2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Nov. 

Various amendments were suggested, but none of 
them of much importance, except in relation to the 
Oregon question. Mr. Buchanan had previously 
read the message and made various suggestions in 
pencil of modification [s], most of which on a re- 
examination had been rejected by me, because they 
were in a much milder and less bold [tone] towards 
Great Brittain than my original draft. Some of the 
suggestions made today were acted on, but no mate- 
rial alteration of my draft was made. 

Mr. Buchanan seemed to be depressed in spirits, 
and, as I thought, greatly concerned lest the contro- 
versy about Oregon might lead to War. The Cab- 
inet remained in session discussing the various topics 
of the message until 3% O'Clock P. M. and ad- 
journed to meet to-morrow. But few alterations ex- 
cept such as were merely verbal were made; indeed 
none were made affecting principle. 

WEDNESDAY, 26th November, 1845. — The Cabi- 
net held a special meeting today, according to the ad- 
journment on yesterday; all the members present. 
The consideration of the Message was resumed. I 
had in the meantime carefully revised it and made 
some modifications of its phraseology, which met the 
concurrence of the Cabinet. A few other sugges- 
tions were made and considered; when it was finally 
decided that the Message as it stood should be copied 
and in that form communicated to Congress. I ac- 
cordingly placed it in the hands of Maj'r H. C. Wil- 
liams, a confidential clerk belonging to the War De- 
partment, who was assigned the room adjoining my 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



103 



office, to make a fair copy for Congress. The Cab- 
inet adjourned about 2^/2 O'Clock P. M. 

In the evening W. V. Voorhies, a clerk in the Gen- 
eral Post-office, was placed in the room with H. C. 
Williams to make a second copy of my Message for 
Congress ; both Mr. Williams and Mr. Voorhies were 
charged to secrecy as to the contents of the Message, 
as they were employed in copying it. 

THURSDAY, 27th November, 1845. — Saw a num- 
ber of members of Congress to-day who called to 
pay their respects. The Secretary of the Navy read 
to me the concluding part of his Annual Report in 
the presence of Mr. Ritchie, having read the pre- 
ceeding part to me two or three days ago. 

About 9 O'Clock to-night Mr. Robert McLane * 
of Baltimore called on me in my office, & stated that 
he had come from Baltimore to Washington in the 
cars this evening in company with John Van Buren 
(son of the late President) . He related to me a con- 
versation which had taken place between them, which 
he said had occupied more than an hour. I shall not 
attempt to give it in detail. Among other things he 
said that Mr. Van Buren expressed the belief that I 
was bestowing the patronage and administering the 
Government with a view to be a candidate for a sec- 
ond term. On being asked to point out the evidence 
of this he did not do so, but thought Gov. Wright and 
the party in N. York had not been well treated. Mr. 
McLane said he told him that as far as he had ob- 

1 Representative from Maryland 1 845-1 851; son of Louis 
McLane, minister to England 1 845-1 846. 



io 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Nov. 

served in Maryland, & he believed it was the case 
elsewhere,I had bestowed the patronage of the Gov- 
ernment to all branches of the Democratic party im- 
partially, and that I had certainly acquired great 
strength among the masses by the course I had pur- 
sued. Mr. Van Buren then expressed the opinion 
that Mr. Buchanan, Secretary of State, or Mr. 
Walker, Secretary of the Treasury, were aspirants to 
the Presidency. He spoke in very unfriendly terms 
of Gov. Marcy (the Secretary of War) and from the 
whole conversation as related to me by Mr. McLane 
it is very clear that Mr. John [Van] Buren is bitterly 
opposed to my administration. Mr. McLane thinks 
his visit to Washington is to ascertain the tone of 
public sentiment towards the administration. My 
own opinion is, that if he finds the administration 
strong among the members of Congress, he and his 
friends in New York will not venture to make open 
opposition to it, but my firm conviction is that neither 
he nor his special friends in New York are friendly 
to it. The truth is they are looking to the next Presi- 
dential election, and nothing could satisfy them un- 
less I were to identify myself with them, and pro- 
scribe all other branches of the Democratic party. 
I will do, as I have done, Mr. Martin Van Buren's 
friends full justice in the bestowal of public patron- 
age, but I cannot proscribe all others of the Demo- 
cratic party in order to gain their good will. I will 
adhere sternly to my principles without identifying 
myself with any faction or clique of the Democratic 
party. 1 

^olk and Van Buren were close political friends until the 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 105 

FRIDAY, 28th November, 1845. — Saw a large 
number of members of Congress to-day who called to 
pay their respects. Saw also quite a number of office 
seekers, to whom I gave no encouragement, not 
having time to give my attention to such matters. 
Among other visitors to-day was Mr. John Van 
Buren of New York. (See diary of yesterday.) He 
was polite and apparently friendly. I was courte- 
ous towards him but not familiar, treating him with 
the respect due to all gentlemen who call on me to 
pay their respects. What conversation occurred 
was of a general character, in the course of which I 
enquired for the health of his father, and for Gov. 
Wright. Mr. Kendall * and other company coming 
in, he retired after making a short visit. 

About 8 O'Clock this evening Vice-President 
Dallas 2 called by appointment. I read to him that 

appointment of Marcy as Secretary of War by the former at 
the beginning of his administration. The Democratic party in 
New York was divided into two factions which later came to 
be known as the Hunkers and the Barnburners. Marcy was 
identified with the former faction while Van Buren and Silas 
Wright were the leaders of the latter. Polk's efforts to hold 
aloof from the quarrels of these factions proved unavailing, and 
from his appointment of Marcy as Secretary of War dates the 
gradual alienation of Van Buren and his followers from Polk's 
administration. 

1 Amos Kendall, 1 789-1 869; close friend of Jackson and mem- 
ber of his "Kitchen Cabinet"; Postmaster General 1835— 
1840; noted for his ability as a political writer and for his bene- 
factions. 

2 George Mifflin Dallas of Philadelphia, 1 792-1 864; rival of 
Buchanan for the leadership of the Democratic party in Pennsyl- 
vania; Vice-President 1 845-1 849, minister to England 1 856-1 861. 



106 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Nov. 

portion of my Message which relates to Oregon, the 
Tariff, and Constitutional Treasury. I informed 
him what had been done in reference to Mexico. He 
expressed himself not only satisfied but highly de- 
lighted with my course on Oregon an[d] in relation 
to Mexico, and approved in unqualified terms what 
had been done in reference to these powers. He ap- 
proved also my views on the tariff and Constitutional 
Treasury. Just before leaving he remarked to me, 
you have made me very happy to-night, I will go 
home and sleep sound. 

Another copy of a part of the message I handed to 
Mr. Ritchie, who occupied an adjoining room and 
read it to-night. This copy embraced all the mes- 
sage except a few paragraphs near the conclusion. 
Mr. R. was well pleased with it, but made some notes 
making suggestions of verbal and immaterial altera- 
tions. 

Mr. Ritchie did not know that Mr. Dallas saw a 
copy in another room on the same evening, nor did 
Mr. Dallas know that Mr. Ritchie had seen it. 

SATURDAY, 2Qth November, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. I read to the Cabinet three additional para- 
graphs which I informed them I thought should be 
inserted in different parts of the message. Two of 
them related to Oregon and one of them to the Con- 
stitutional Treasury. They were each an additional 
sentence to what I had before written and read to 
the Cabinet. In speaking of the Oregon question, 
Mr. Buchanan remarked that he thought from what 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 107 

he had heard from the members of Congress who had 
spoken to him, that they would be favourable to a set- 
tlement of the question on the parallel of 49 ° of North 
Latitude. I told him that his channels of informa- 
tion were very different from mine; that there [was] 
not one in ten of the members whom I had seen who 
were not roused on the Oregon question and were go- 
ing the whole length. Mr. B. expressed the opinion 
with some earnestness that the country would not jus- 
tify a war for the country North of 49 , and that my 
greatest danger would be that I would be attacked for 
holding a warlike tone. I told him that my greatest 
danger was that I would be attacked for having 
yielded to what had been done by my predecessors 
and in deference alone, as he knew, to their acts and 
commitments, [and for having] agreed to offer the 
compromise of 49 . I told him that if that proposi- 
tion had been accepted by the Brittish Minister my 
course would have met with great opposition, and 
in my opinion would have gone far to overthrow the 
administration; that, had it been accepted, as we 
came in on Texas the probability was we would have 
gone out on Oregon. I told him we had done our 
duty by offering 49 , and that I did not regret that 
it had been rejected by the Brittish Minister. 

Judge Mason mentioned to me aside in the Cab- 
inet room, that he feared Mr. Buchanan [had] been 
talking freely with members of Congress in favour 
of a settlement at 49 . The truth is Mr. Buchanan 
has from the beginning been, as I think, too timid and 
too fearful of War on the Oregon question, and has 
been most anxious to settle the question by yielding 



io8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Nov. 

and making greater concessions than I am willing to 
make. 

Mr. Senator Allen called this morning & read con- 
fidentially my message, and heartily approved it 
throughout. 

It is reported to me that the Democratic members 
of the House of Representatives held a caucus at the 
Hall of the House to-night, and that 104 members 
were in attendance. As many Democratic members 
had not reached Washington, they adjourned to meet 
again on Monday at 9 O'Clock A. M. at which time 
they proposed to nominate a Speaker and other offi- 
cers of the House. 

SUNDAY, 30th November, 1845. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk. 

MONDAY, 1st December, 1845. — The 1st Session 
of the 29th Congress convened today. My Private 
Secretary informed me at y 2 past 12 O'Clock, that 
the caucus of Democratic members held this morning 
had nominated the Hon. John W. Davis l of Indiana, 
as their candidate for Speaker by a vote of more 
than two-thirds of all the members present. On re- 
ceiving this information I had no reason to doubt, 
but that both Houses would be organized today. 
Under this belief I gave a copy of my Message to 
John P. Heiss, Esq'r, one of the editors of the Union, 
with strict injunctions to let no copy or part of a copy 

1 Representative from Indiana 1 835-1 837, 1 839-1 841, and 
1 843-1 847. Speaker of the House in the 29th Congress. 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 109 

go out of his office until after it was delivered to 
Congress on tomorrow. It was given to Mr. Heiss 
in the strictest confidence, as I learned had been 
usual with my predecessors, so that it might be 
printed and ready for distribution as soon as it was 
delivered to the two Houses of Congress on tomor- 
row. I told Mr. Heiss that if anything should un- 
expectedly occur to prevent the organization of 
Congress today, or the delivery of the Message on to- 
morrow, he was held responsible to keep its contents 
entirely secret from every human being until it was 
delivered to Congress. He promised me to do so. 

At 2 O'Clock P. M. I was informed that the House 
of Representatives had elected the Hon. John W. 
Davis of Indiana their Speaker. 

TUESDAY, 2nd December, 1 84 5. — At half past 12 
O'Clock P. M. today a joint Committee of the two 
Houses of Congress waited on me and informed me 
that their respective Houses had organized and were 
ready to receive any communication which I might 
have to make. I returned for answer that I would 
make to the two Houses of Congress a communica- 
tion in writing forthwith. The Committee having 
retired my Private Secretary left my office with the 
Message 1 & delivered it at 1 O'Clock P. M. 

In the evening a number of members of Congress 
called, all of whom expressed their approbation of 
the Message in strong & decided terms ; among them 
was Gen'l Cass, 2 who expressed his entire concur- 

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 385. 

2 Lewis Cass, 1 782-1 866, Senator from Michigan and leader of 



no JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Dec. 

rence in every part of the Message. He was de- 
lighted with that part of it relating to Oregon, 
Mexico, & Texas; and in reference to that part re- 
lating to the Tariff he said to me, " You have struck 
out the true doctrine, you have cut the Gordian 
Knot." Mr. Holmes 1 of S. C. called, he said, to 
return to me his thanks for the doctrines of the Mes- 
sage, and especially in reference to the tariff, and 
said that he was authorized by Mr. McDuffie 2 to 
express his hearty approval of it, and especially in 
reference to the tariff, and that if his health had 
permitted he would have called in person to have 
expressed the same thing to me. Mr. Wilmot 3 of 
Pennsylvania expressed his approval of the whole 
message & added, the doctrines on the tariff were 
the true doctrines & he would support them. Mr. 
Cameron 4 of Pennsylvania (of the Senate) pleas- 
antly said, " We Pennsylvanians may scratch a lit- 
tle about the tariff but we will not quarrel about it " ; 
& added " we are well pleased with all the rest of 

the administration party in the Senate 1 844-1 848. He resigned 
his seat in the Senate to become the Democratic Presidential 
nominee in 1848. 

1 Isaac Edward Holmes, 1 796-1 867, Representative from South 
Carolina 1839-1857. 

2 George McDuffie, 1788—185 1, Senator from South Carolina 
1 843-1 846. 

3 David Wilmot, 18 14-1868, Representative from Pennsylvania 
1 845-1 85 1, author of the famous " Wilmot Proviso" in 1846. 

4 Simon Cameron, 1 799-1 889, Senator from Pennsylvania 1845- 
1849, 1857-1861, and 1867-1877; Secretary of War under Lin- 
coln in 1 86 1. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY in 

the message.'' Several other members expressed un- 
qualified approbation of the message. 

WEDNESDAY, Jrd December, 1845. — Many mem- 
bers of Congress called today; the Democratic mem- 
bers all expressing in strong terms their approbation 
of the message. Ex-Speaker Hunter 1 of Va. called 
in company with Mr. Seddon 2 of Va., Mr. Sims 3 of 
S. C. [and] Mr. Black 4 of S. C, and thanked me 
for the doctrines of the message. Several other per- 
sons besides those named were in my office at the 
time. Mr. Black of S. C. said he was the bearer 
of a message from Mr. Senator McDuffie of S. C. 
who was confined to his room by indisposition. He 
was authorized by Mr. McDuffie to say that he 
highly approved my message and thanked me for it; 
that he would draw the sword and fight in support 
of the doctrines of the message; with the tariff doc- 
trines of the message he was entirely satisfied. 
These gentlemen and many others who called as- 
sured me that there was a universal approval among 
all the Democratic members and that the Whigs gen- 

1 Robert M. T. Hunter, 1 809-1 887, Representative from Vir- 
ginia 1 837-1 843, and 1 845-1 847, Speaker of the House 1839- 
1841, Senator 1847-1861; later became Confederate Secretary of 
State. 

2 James Alexander Seddon, Representative from Virginia 1845- 
1847, an( l 1849— 1 85 1, and fourth Confederate Secretary of War. 

3 Alexander Dromgoole Sims, 1 803-1 848, Representative from 
South Carolina from 1845 until his death in 1848. 

4 James A. Black, 1 793-1 848, Representative from South Car- 
olina from 1843 until his death in April, 1848. 



H2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Dec. 

erally had but little to say on the subject, some of 
them expressing approbation in relation to Oregon. 
Hopkins L. Turney, U. S. Senator from Tennes- 
see, called on me this morning. I received him 
courteously and in a friendly manner. His man- 
ner and conversation were of a pleasant and friendly 
character. After the salutations of meeting and 
some general conversation had taken place, I told 
him I had known him a long time, and intended to 
talk frankly with him, to which he signified his as- 
sent. I told him that I regretted the division and 
excitement among the Democratic party at Nash- 
ville in the Senatorial election, and that I had been 
greatly surprised to learn that my name had 
been mixed up with that election, and that I had been 
charged with interfering or dictating in that elec- 
tion. I told him it was wholly a mistake to suppose 
that I had taken any part in it; I told him that I 
had been much gratified at the result of the Ten- 
nessee election in August; that after it was ascer- 
tained that the Democratic party had a majority in 
the Legislature, I took it for granted that a Demo- 
cratic Senator would be elected; that I saw in the 
newspapers and learned from my friends that the 
names of eight or ten prominent Democrats were 
mentioned for the station; and among them were 
the names of Coe, Dunlap, Huntsman, Fitzgerald, 
Turley, Judge Wm. T. Brown, Trousdale, Nichol- 
son, & himself. I told him that they had all been 
my personal and political friends, and that I could 
not with any propriety take any part between them. 
I told him that I had so declared in conversation 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 113 

with Cave Johnson before the Legislature met, and 
that I had not written a line or spoken a word to 
any one in the State on the subject. Mr. Turney 
commenced explaining his course, and spoke of a 
letter which he had written to me before the meeting 
of the Legislature which I had not answered. I 
told him that Mr. Nicholson l had written to me 
also before I received his letter, and that I had re- 
ceived some other letters on the subject, and that I 
had answered none of them because I had resolved 
to stand aloof from the contest, and let my political 
friends at Nashville make their own selection in 
their own way, without any interference on my part. 
Mr. T. went on with his statement in a very con- 
ciliatory tone, from which it was manifest he desired 
to be on friendly terms, but before he had finished 
company came into the office & the conversation 
stopped. I asked Mr. Turney to walk into my Pri- 
vate Secretary's office, intending to resume the con- 
versation as soon as the company retired. He did 
so & remained some time, when finding that other 
company had come in & were likely to occupy my 
time longer than he would probably desire to re- 
main, I stepped into my Secretary's office & asked 
him if he could return about dark this evening. He 
said he could & retired. 

About 6 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Turney returned and 
the conversation related above was resumed. He 
stated that his letter to me was written while he was 

1 Alfred Osborn Pope Nicholson, Senator from Tennessee 1841- 
1843, and 1857-1861; editor of the Washington Union 1853- 
1856; prominent in the Secession movement. 



ii 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Dec. 

attending the Chancery Court at Fayetteville, 
Ten[n], He said at that place he saw the Nash- 
ville Whig which contained an article stating that 
Washington influence or dictation had designated 
the candidate for the Senate desired by the adminis- 
tration, that Col. Fulton of Fayetteville had seen 
it and advised him to write the letter he did to me, 
saying to him that I would no doubt deny any in- 
terference; that under these circumstances he wrote 
the letter, and that having received no answer he 
inferred that the statement of the Whig was true. He 
went on to state other reasons why he drew the same 
inference, such as that he was not supported by any 
Democrat from East Tennessee, because it was said 
there that Mr. Nicholson was my choice & that when 
the Legislature met he had 19 Democratic members 
in his favour, all of whom left him & voted for Mr. 
Nicholson except the six members who adhered to 
him to the last. He then said that his inference was 
wrong & he was now satisfied of it, and expressed 
some anxiety that the erroneous impression made on 
the people of Tennessee should be corrected. I told 
him that I could not correct it by any publication 
without making an issue with him. He said he did 
not expect or desire me to make a publication of the 
kind, but remarked that he might inform the Demo- 
cratic members of Congress from Tennessee of the 
fact & they might write to their friends in Tennes- 
see. I told him as to that I had nothing to say; that 
all I had to say was, that the charge that I had in 
any manner interfered in the Senatorial election was 
wholly unfounded. The whole conversation left no 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 115 

doubt on my mind that he had resorted to the charge 
that I had interfered simply to get Whig votes for 
the Senate and secure his election, and that he did 
not believe the charge himself. It satisfied me fur- 
ther that having succeeded in securing his election 
by such means, he was now desirous to relieve him- 
self from the embarrassment in which he was placed, 
and to support my administration. 

My servant announced to me that company was 
in the parlour. Mr. Turney accompanied me to the 
parlour where he saw Mrs. Polk and several mem- 
bers of Congress who had called to see me. 

Nothing was said about Mr. Turney's letter lately 
published in the Nashville papers. I did not allude 
to it, and he did not. The truth, I have no doubt, 
is that Mr. Turney resolved to come to the Senate 
if he could, and finding that a majority of his own 
party preferred Mr. Nicholson, made the charge 
that I had interfered in the election and expressed 
a preference for Mr. Nicholson knowing it himself 
to be false, for the sole purpose of securing Whig 
votes, and in this he succeeded. 

THURSDAY, 4th December, 1845. — Had many 
visitors to-day, and among them several members of 
Congress mostly of the Democratic party. All who 
spoke on the subject highly approved my message. 

FRIDAY, 5/A December, 1 845. — A great number 
of members of Congress, many of them of the Whig 
party, called to see me to-day. Among them was Mr. 
Archer of Va., who expressed his gratification at 



n6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Dec. 

the message, and especially that part of it relating 
to Oregon. He spoke in very friendly terms and 
said he had, on the day the message was read in the 
Senate, written to a Whig member of the Virginia 
Legislature that he believed he was half a Polk-man. 
He intimated that on the tariff we did not exactly 
agree. He admired, he said, the frankness and plain- 
ness of the message, that it was not ambiguous in 
any of its parts but that every one knew where to 
find me. 

Congress had adjourned over on yesterday to meet 
on Monday next. Owing to this circumstance the 
number of members of Congress who called was 
probably greater than it would otherwise have been. 

SATURDAY, 6th December, 184S. — This was the 
regular day of the meeting of the Cabinet, but as 
Congress did not sit & many members were calling, 
and there being no special business for the considera- 
tion of the Cabinet, no meeting was held. Each 
member of the Cabinet was so informed as he came 
in. 

Many members of Congress called to-day, chiefly 
Whigs. Among others Col. Benton called, and after 
the usual salutations said, in presence of Judge Ma- 
son who was in my office, "Well! you have sent us 
the message," and " I think we can all go it as we 
understand it." I pleasantly replied that he had 
very high authority for saying, " as we understand 
it," alluding to a remark of Gen'l Jackson that he 
administered the Government according to the Con- 
stitution as " he understood it"; and I added, I 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 117 

endeavored to write it in plain English, & thought 
no part of it could be misunderstood. Col. Benton 
was in a very pleasant humour, and remarked that 
he thought the Brittish title to that part of Ore- 
gon which lay on Frasier's * River was as good as ours 
to that on the Columbia River, but he said he had 
said nothing about that. He said the Spanish title 
to the coast up to the Russian line including all of 
Vancouver's Island was the best, and that as we held 
the Spanish title, it was good against Great Brittain. 
He then stated he had happened to meet Mr. Pak- 
enham some days ago on the street; that Mr. Paken- 
ham remarked to him that he had seen an extract of 
his (Mr. B's) speech made some years ago published 
in the National Intelligencer, and that he was happy 
to find that he (Col. B.) recognized Brittish rights 
in Oregon and had been willing to compr[om]ise 
at 49 . He said that Mr. Pakenham then made a 
remark which struck him as having meaning in it; 
viz., Mr. Pakenham asked him what he would think 
of surrendering to Great Brittain the Cap[e] of 
Vancouver's Island South of 49 ° and the free naviga- 
tion of the Columbia River, to which Mr. B. said 
he replied, that as to the nose of Vancouver's Island, 
he cared but little about it, but the free navigation 
of the Columbia River was another question. Mr. 
Pakenham then made a remark about [granting] the 
free navigation of the St. Lawrence to the United 
States. From which, I remarked, the inference was 

1 The Fraser River flows through British Columbia and enters 
the Gulf of Georgia near latitude 49 , its course being nearly 
parallel with that of the Columbia. 



n8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Dec. 

that Mr. Pakenham might be willing to settle the 
controversy by yielding to the U. S. the free naviga- 
tion of the St. Lawrence in consideration of the U. 
S. surrendering to Great Brittain the free navigation 
of the Columbia & the Cap[e] of Vancouver's Is- 
land South of 49 . This conversation I understood 
Mr. Benton to say took place some time before the 
meeting of Congress. 

Judge Mason jocosely remarked to Col. Benton 
something relating to that portion of the message 
which related to graduation & preemptions in the 
public lands, and said to Col. B. " I believe, Sir, 
you were the author of the graduation policy." Col. 
B. replied, " Yes." I said something on the subject, 
and Col. B. retired in good humour & apparently 
well satisfied. 

After he retired Judge Mason remarked that he 
had drawn the conversation off from Oregon, under 
the impression that Col. B. had desired to draw from 
me some expression of opinion in regard to the 
Brittish title to that part of Oregon on Frasier's 
River. I replied there was no danger of that. 

SUNDAY, Jth December, 1845. — Attended church 
to-day at the 1st Presbyterian church in company 
with Mrs. Polk & Miss Rucker. 

MONDAY, 8th December, 1845. — Saw many mem- 
bers of Congress and strangers to-day; some on offi- 
cial business, some to pay their respects, and others 
seeking offices for themselves & their friends. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 119 

TUESDAY, Qth December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Attorney General, who was officially 
engaged in the Supreme Court of the U. States. 

After considering several public matters of minor 
importance, Mr. Buchanan stated that the Brittish 
Minister might call on him and probably would do 
so to talk on the Oregon question. He inquired of 
me what answer he should give, if Mr. Pakenham 
should introduce the subject. I replied that the sub- 
ject having been laid before Congress in my annual 
Message, the Executive of the U. S. was not called 
on to take any further step on the subject. " But," 
said Mr. Buchanan, " suppose Mr. Pakenham in- 
quires whether any further proposition which the 
Brittish Government might make would be received, 
what shall I say to him?" I told him that I did 
not know that the Brittish Minister had any right to 
ask such a question, or to require an answer; that 
certainly the U. S. could not invite him to take any 
step whatever; that if he chose to do so voluntarily 
he had a right to do so, and in that event it would 
be time enough for me to consider what disposition 
should be made of it; or what answer if any should 
be made to it. I stated that I was satisfied that he 
would make no proposition which I would accept. 
Mr. Buchanan repeated his anxiety to settle the con- 
troversy at 49 , & asked, if that line was proposed 
by Mr. Pakenham reserving to Great Brittain the 
Southern cap[e] of Vancouver's Island, whether I 
would submit it to the Senate for their advice before 



i2o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Dec. 

acting on it, and whether he was authorized to say 
so to Mr. Pakenham. I told him he was not author- 
ized to say so, that the Brittish Minister should not 
know anything of any consultation with the Senate, 
even if I had determined to ask the advice of that 
body, which I had not. I told Mr. Buchanan that if 
Mr. Pakenham held a conversation with him, such as 
he anticipated he would, that it would be sufficient to 
refer him to his (Mr. B's) notes to him of the 30th 
August & [to] those which preceded it, and that I 
could do nothing, nor authorize nothing to be done, 
which would have the appearance of inviting the 
Brittish Minister to make any other movement on the 
subject. He had a right to do so voluntarily if he 
chose, and if he did so I would then consider what ac- 
tion it might be proper to take on our part. Mr. B. 
repeated his anxiety to settle the question at 49 ° & 
avoid war. I told him that I did not desire war, but 
that at all hazards we must maintain our just rights. 

WEDNESDAY, IOth December, 1845. — Had many 
visitors consisting of members of Congress and others 
to-day up to 12 O'Clock, when I closed my doors and 
devoted the remainder of the day to the despatch of 
the business which had accumulated on my table. 

THURSDAY, nth December, 1845. — Saw com- 
pany, members of Congress and others, up to 12 
O'Clock to-day, when I closed my doors to enable 
me to attend to the business on my table. About 2 
O'Clock P. M. the Secretary of War called in, & 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 121 

shortly afterwards the Secretary of State. Mr. Bu- 
chanan stated that Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish Min- 
ister, had called at the Department of State to-day, 
and held a long unofficial conversation with him, on 
various matters concerning the interests of the two 
countries, viz., on the rough rice question and some 
others, and finally introduced the Oregon question. 
This conversation Mr. B. repeated at length. Its 
substance was, that Mr. P. expressed his gratification 
that he (Mr. B.) had not been appointed Judge of 
the Supreme Court, but remained Secretary of State. 
Mr. P. expressed a desire that the Oregon question 
could have been settled, but expressed his apprehen- 
sions of the action of Congress on the subject. Mr. 
[Buchanan] said he told him that the recommenda- 
tions of my message were within the Treaty of the 
6th of August, 1827, and Mr. P. admitted that they 
were. Mr. B. told him he thought Congress would 
not go beyond those recommendations at the present 
session. Mr. P. asked what condition we would be 
in at the end of the year's notice, and expressed a 
desire to preserve peace. Mr. B. informed him that 
we too desired to maintain peace. Mr. B. repre- 
sented his manner to be solemn & earnest. Mr. P. 
informed Mr. B. that the next Steamer for England 
would sail something earlier than usual, and that let- 
ters or despatches to go out by her must be mailed at 
Washington by Saturday, the 13th Instant. Mr. B. 
was satisfied that Mr. P. was waiting further in- 
structions from his Government, after the reception 
of the message in England. 



122 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Dec. 

FRIDAY, 1 2th December, 1845. — Had much com- 
pany to-day as usual ; was somewhat indisposed from 
the effects of cold. Had a dining party of between 
30 and 40 persons, consisting of members of Congress 
and their families. 

SATURDAY, Ijth December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Before the Cabinet met Mr. Buchanan sent to 
me for my examination a draft of a despatch to Mr. 
McLane, U. S. Minister at London, on the subject of 
the present state of the Oregon question. One por- 
tion of this despatch I disapproved. It was in 
substance as follows, viz., that if the Brittish Gov- 
ernment chose to offer as a compromise the 49 yield- 
ing any claim to the free navigation of the Columbia 
River, & the U. S. yielding to Great Brittain the 
Southern cap[e] of Vancouver's Island, that the 
President would feel strongly inclined to submit such 
a proposition to the Senate for their advice. This 
is not the exact language, but is the substance of that 
part of the despatch. I have not the paper before 
[me]. I directed this part of the despatch to be 
struck out, and the following paragraph to be in- 
serted in its place which was done accordingly, viz., 
" Should that Government (Great Brittain) take any 
further step with a view to settle the controversy, 
the President would judge of the character of any 
new proposition when made, and if in his opinion it 
was such as to justify it, would feel inclined to sub- 
mit it to the Senate for their previous advice before 
he would take any action upon it. As the determina- 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 123 

tion on any new proposition which may be made, 
might involve the question of peace or war between 
the two countries, he would feel it to be his duty to 
consult his constitutional advisers before a final de- 
cision." In discussing this alteration which I di- 
rected to be made, Mr. Buchanan said it did not im- 
part any information to Mr. McLane & unless I was 
prepared to let the dispatch stand as he had written 
[it], we had better prepare for war. I told Mr. 
Buchanan that I would not invite the Brittish Gov- 
ernm[en]t to make any new proposition, nor would 
I now inform Mr. McLane what I would do with 
such proposition when made; that I intended to 
hold the whole subject in my own hands, and to judge 
of such proposition, if made, when I saw it and knew 
what it was. I told [him] that the U. S. stood well 
as the question had been presented to Congress in 
my message; that we had the advantage of Great 
Brittain, and that if anything more was done that 
Governm[en]t must move voluntarily and of its own 
accord, and without any intimation or assurance from 
me of what I would do. The subject was further dis- 
cussed, and closed by having the amendment made 
which I had directed. After Mr. Buchanan left the 
room, Mr. Bancroft remarked to me that he thought 
I was right. 

Mr. Mason in a casual conversation on different 
subjects, one or two other members of the Cabinet 
still remaining, alluded to a rumour which had been 
mentioned to him a day or two before, to the effect 
that the Secretary of the Treasury had written that 
part of my message which related to the tariff. Mr. 



i2 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Dec. 

Mason said he had told the person who mentioned 
it to him that the rumour was wholly unfounded; 
and stated to him the fact that while I was prepar- 
ing my message he called at my office; I read to him 
the part of the message relating to the tariff, and 
that after I was done reading it the Secretary of the 
Treasury called in, when I remarked to him that I 
had just read to Mr. Mason what I would say in 
the message on the tariff, but that I would not read 
it to him (Mr. Walker) until after he had prepared 
his Report. The fact stated by Mr. Mason I re- 
member, but did not think it worth noting in this 
diary at the time. The fact is that the tariff part of 
the message and every other part of it is my own. It 
was of course submitted to the Cabinet and closely 
scrutinized, discussed, and examined in all its parts. 
Changes of phraseology in some of its parts, not af- 
fecting its substance or sentiment, were suggested and 
made. Rough drafts were furnished by the several 
secretaries of passages relating particularly to their 
own departments. For instance the Secretary of the 
Treasury furnishes the statistics relating to the state 
of the Treasury & the finances ; the Secretary of War 
relating to the state of the Army, the public defences, 
Indian relations, &c. The other Secretaries fur- 
nished like information. With this information be- 
fore me, I wrote the whole message, and my Private 
Secretary, J. Knox Walker, copied it. From his 
copy H. C. Williams & W. V. Voorhies, clerks, made 
the two copies, which we sent to the two Houses of 
Congress. I will preserve my original drafts of its 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 125 

several parts, as also of the copy made by J. Knox 
Walker, my Private Secretary. 

SUNDAY, 14th December, 1845. — This was a very 
inclement day; during the greater part of the day it 
rained & sleeted, the pavements and streets being 
covered with ice. I was indisposed from the effects 
of cold, and the excessive fatigues of the last week, 
and remained quietly at home; the family did [not] 
attend church as was usual with them. 

MONDAY, 15th December, 1 845. — Saw company 
to-day in my office until 12 O'Clock, when I closed 
my doors and attended to the business on my tab[l]e; 
I saw company again in the evening in the parlour. 

TUESDAY, 1 6th December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Attorney General, who was understood 
to be in attendance on the Supreme Court of the U. 
S. in the discharge of his official duties. The subject 
of additional instructions to the U. S. Minister to 
Mexico was discussed and, the character of the in- 
structions being agreed on, Mr. Buchanan was in- 
structed to prepare them. Some other subjects of 
no general interest were considered and the Cabinet 
dispersed at an earlier hour than usual. 

WEDNESDAY, lyth December, 1845. — Received 
company until 12 O'Clock to-day. At that hour left 
my office & in company with the Secretary of the 



126 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 Dec. 

Navy visited the Navy Yard at Washington ; went on 
board the vessel called the " Spit-fire " and witnessed 
Mr. Taylor descend into the water with his diving 
Bell, and remain under water for half an hour. 1 
Returned to my office about i O'Clock P. M., and 
was engaged until dinner in disposing of the official 
business on my table. 

THURSDAY, 1 8th December, 1845. — The number 
of visitors to-day, consisting of members of Congress, 
persons who called to pay their respects, and office 
seekers was unusually large. My whole time was oc- 
cupied in giving them audience, except about half an 
hour during which I wrote a private letter to the 
Hon. John Slidell, U. S. Minister to Mexico (see 
copy of the letter) . At night I declined seeing com- 
pany in order to dispose of the business which had 
accumulated on my table. 

FRIDAY, IQth December, 1845. — Had a large 
number of visitors to-day. After they had left Mr. 
Lester, U. S. Consul at Genoa, called. He had 
much conversation. I heard him, but I cannot say 
with patience, for I had much business on my table 
which I was anxious to dispose of. Among other 
things he adverted to the fact that he was a writer 
for the New York Herald, and asked me how I was 
pleased with the course of the Herald. I told him 
I had but little opportunity to read newspapers, and 

1 Captain George W. Taylor, inventor of appliances for the 
defence of harbors. H. Rep. 192, 28 Cong. 2 Sess., and 409, 
29 Cong. 1 Sess. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 127 

could at no time do more than glance hastily over 
them. He then stated his views about California, 
and spoke of his intention to publish articles in the 
Herald on the subject, if I approved his views. I 
had no doubt in my mind that his object was to as- 
certain what the course of the Government of the 
U. S. was in reference to the acquisition of Califor- 
nia. This I did not choose to communicate to him. 
My answers were general and indefinite. Had a 
dining party to-day. 

SATURDAY, 20th December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a Regular meeting to-day; all the members 
present. Nothing of importance was discussed. 
Several matters of business were attended to, when 
the Cabinet dispersed. 

Hon. Jacob Thompson * of Mississippi called 
about 3 O'Clock P. M., and earnestly insisted that I 
should withdraw from the Senate the nomination 
which I had made of Dr. Tate of Mississippi. He 
admitted that he and other members of the Delega- 
tion in Congress from Miss, had recommended him 
for the appointment, but insisted that he had since 
that time been guilty of duplicity in his intercourse 
with him. He admitted that he was qualified for the 
station. I told him I could not withdraw his nomi- 
nation; that I considered the [reason] assigned by 
him why I should do so, that the reasons he assigned 
were of a personal character between Dr. T. and 
himself. He said he must have his nomination op- 

1 Representative from Mississippi 1839-1851, Secretary of the 
Interior 185 7-1 861, Governor of Mississippi 1 862-1 864. 



i28 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Dec. 

posed in the Senate, if I did not withdraw his nomi- 
nation. I told him he could do so, if he chose, but 
that I would not withdraw the nomination. He left 
apparently disappointed, and I judged from his man- 
ner & conversation was much dissatisfied. 

I had a dining party on yesterday, consisting of 
the Judges of the Supreme Court of the U. States 
and members of Congress and several ladies belong- 
ing to their families. The whole party consisting 
[consisted] of about 40 persons. This fact is stated 
in my diary of this day, having been omitted in that 
of yesterday. 

Received despatches by special messenger about 8 
O'Clock to-night from Mexico. 

SUNDAY, 2 1st December, 1845. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and Miss Rucker. 

MONDAY, 22nd December, 1845. — Some days 
ago Mr. Bancroft, the Secretary of the Navy, & my- 
self held a conversation, in which I expressed a will- 
ingness to extend to Mr. John Quincy Adams, Ex- 
President of the U. S., an invitation to dine with me. 
Though we had always differed widely in politics, 
and there were many acts of his public life which I 
disapproved, Mr. Bancroft agreed with me in opin- 
ion that it would be proper for me as President of the 
U. S. in consideration of his age and the high sta- 
tions which he had held to extend to him such an 
invitation, provided it was ascertained that it would 
be agreeable to him. After some further conversa- 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 129 

tion I authorized Mr. Bancroft to intimate to him 
my disposition to invite him to dinner, if it should 
be agreeable to him to accept. 

This morning Mr. Bancroft called at my office, 
and informed me that he had just had a conversation 
with Mr. Adams, and had intimated to him what I 
had authorized him to do. Mr. Adams, he in- 
formed me, said that a similar communication had 
been made to him by Genl. Jackson while he was 
President of the U. S. through a common friend 
(Col. Richard M. Johnson) 1 and that he had de- 
clined it. Mr. Adams, as Mr. Bancroft informed 
me, said further that his personal relations with me 
had always been good, and while in Congress to- 
gether, though we had voted differently on almost 
every public question, that yet our personal relations 
had never been disturbed. His [he] expressed his 
determination to support my administration on the 
Oregon question, and that he would take an early 
occasion to make known his views in the House. 
Mr. Adams, as Mr. B. informed me, then alluded to 
the controversy which he had had with Gen'l Jack- 
son, Mr. Chas. J. Ingersoll of Penn., and Gov. Brown 
of Tennessee, in relation to the Boundary fixed by 
the Florida Treaty of 1819, in which there had been 
an attempt by these persons to make it appear that 
he had accepted a less favourable boundary for the 
U. S. than he could have obtained, and had thereby 

1 Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky, 1781-1850, Colonel of 
the Kentucky volunteers in the War of 18 12, U. S. Senator, with 
a brief intermission, from 1819 to 1837; Vice-President 1837- 
1841. 



i 3 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Dec. 

lost Texas to the U. S. He said that I had written 
a letter to the same effect, and that I would know 
what letter it was. He said that he had made a 
speech in Massachusetts in which he had spoken of 
that letter, and intimated that some explanation of 
my statements in that letter would be necessary be- 
fore he could accept an invitation to dinner. Mr. 
Bancroft said he left him in a good humour. I told 
Mr. Bancroft that it was a matter of no consequence 
whether he was invited to dinner or not, and that 
certainly I had no explanations to make. At first I 
was at some loss to recollect to what letter of mine he 
alluded. Upon a little reflection I remarked that 
he must have alluded to my letter to a committee of 
Citizens of Cincinnati in April, 1844, on me subject 
of the Annexation of Texas. 1 I told Mr. Bancroft 
that my statements in that letter were correct, and 
were sustained by the public records of the country, 
and that I had no explanations concerning it to 
make. I told him further that I had never read 
Mr. Adams' speech in Massachusetts in which, Mr. 
A. had informed him, he had referred to it. I told 

1 The letter referred to was written April 22, 1 844, in answer 
to an inquiry as to Polk's attitude, as a prospective Vice-Presi- 
dential candidate, toward the question of the annexation of Texas. 
In it Polk argued that the territory of Texas had belonged to 
the United States from 1803 until 18 19 when it had been un- 
wisely ceded to Spain in the treaty of that year. For this cession 
he blamed John Quincy Adams who, as Secretary of State, had 
had charge of the negotiation of the treaty. Polk favored there- 
fore the " immediate reannexation " of Texas. The letter is 
printed in Jenkins, Polk, 1 20-123. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 131 

Mr. B. to let the matter rest where it was, and that 
I would not think of inviting him to dinner; and 
that I had only thought of extending that courtesy 
as President of the U. S. which his age and the sta- 
tions he had held seemed to make proper. 

Mr. Jno. C. Calhoun of S. C. called on me this 
morning, having arrived in the City on Saturday 
night last. He appeared to be in a fine humour. 
He introduced the subject of Oregon, and expressed 
his desire to assert our rights in that Territory. He 
declared himself, however, opposed to giving the 
year's notice for the termination of the Treaty of 
joint occupancy of 1827, as recommended in my mes- 
sage. That point was discussed in a conversation of 
a few minutes length in which we differed in opinion. 
Mr. C. expressed himself as being strongly in favour 
of peace. 1 I told him I was in favour of peace, but at 
the same time all our just rights must be maintained. 
I went on to speak of the recommendations of my 
message and to enforce them. Mr. C. then said that 
he feared, or rather that the greatest danger of dis- 
turbing the peace between the two countries, would 
grow out of the hasty action of Congress and the 
debates which would arise. He expressed a strong 
desire for delay of action on the subject, and said 
the Executive should confer with the proper com- 
mittees of Congress and restrain them from taking 
rash or warlike measures. I became satisfied from 

1 Calhoun's correspondence at this time shows him to have been 
possessed of the conviction that he alone could save the country 
from war with England. Annual Report of American Historical 
Association, 1899, II, 671-681. 



i 3 2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Dec. 

the whole conversation that he would not support the 
views of the message. He said a few words on 
the tariff part of my message, the substance of which 
was that he approved part of my views on that sub- 
ject but not the whole, or, as I inferred, that I had 
not gone to the extent that he would have done. 
Upon the whole the conversation was not a satisfac- 
tory one, and the impression left on my mind is very 
strong that Mr. Calhoun will be very soon in opposi- 
tion to my administration. 

At about 7 O'Clock P. M. Senators Speight 1 and 
Chalmers 2 of Mississippi called according to a re- 
quest made by me. I consulted them about the 
nomination of Dr. James H. Tate as Consul to 
Buenos Ayres, which I had made to the Senate. 
This nomination was objected to by the Hon. Jacob 
Thompson, who had insisted that I should withdraw 
it, as will be seen in this diary of Saturday, the 20th 
Instant. I exhibited the recommendations on which 
Dr. Tate had been appointed in the recess of the 
Senate; and they advised me, and Mr. Speight 
strongly, not to withdraw it. He was appointed 
originally on the written recommendation of Mr. 
Thompson himself, and the whole Mississippi dele- 
gation in Congress, as well as other members of Con- 
gress and some leading citizens of Mississippi. 

Shortly after Mr. Speight & Mr. Chalmers left, 

1 Jesse Speight, 1 795-1 847, Representative from North Caro- 
lina 1829-1837; Senator from Mississippi from 1845 until his 
death in 1847. 

2 Joseph W. Chalmers, Senator from Mississippi 1 845-1 847. 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 133 

Gov. Fairfield 1 of Maine called in company with 
Col. Robertson of Bath, Maine, and in the course of 
a few minutes Mr. Rice, the Editor of a paper in 
Maine called The Age came in. Gov. Fairfield and 
the other two gentlemen earnestly insisted on the 
nomination of Dr. Nourse 2 to the Senate as Col- 
lector of Bath. They were apprised that four of the 
Maine delegation in Congress had protested in a 
written communication against his appointment. 
After much conversation on the subject Gov. Fair- 
field became excited and made some remarks which 
excited me, but the matter was fully explained before 
we seperated. 

TUESDAY, 23rd December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Attorney General, who was officially 
engaged in the Supreme Court of the U. States. A 
grave discussion took place in view of the contin- 
gency of War with Great Brittain, growing out of 
the present critical state of the Oregon question. 
Mr. Buchanan expressed himself decidedly in favour 
of making vigorous preparations for defence, and 
said it was his conviction that the next two weeks 
would decide the issue of peace or war. I expressed 
my concurrence with Mr. Buchanan that the coun- 
try should be put in a state of defence without delay; 

1 John Fairfield, 1797-1847, Governor of Maine 1839-1841, 
Senator from Maine 1 843-1 847. 

2 Amos Nourse ; he was appointed Collector of Customs at 
Bath, Maine, at the close of the year 1845. 



i 34 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Dec. 

that if peace continued the expenditure would not 
be lost, and if war came such preparation would 
be indispensable. The Secretaries of War and Navy 
were directed to consult with the Chairmen of the 
Military and Naval Committees of the two Houses, 
communicate our views to them, and aid them in 
drafting the proper bills. The character of these 
Bills was agreed on, and there was no difference of 
opinion on the subject. The present state of the 
Oregon question was then considered. A despatch 
from our Minister at London (Mr. McLane) was 
read. A Private Letter of Mr. McLane to me of 
the 1 st Instant was also read. The opinion was 
then expressed by Mr. Buchanan that the Brittish 
Minister here would probably very soon propose 
arbitration as an ultimatum. All agreed that this 
was probably [probable], and also that we could 
not agree to arbitration, first, because the question of 
a compromise of territorial limits was not a fit sub- 
ject for such reference, and 2nd, because in the ex- 
isting state of the principal Powers of the world an 
impartial umpire could not be found. It was agreed 
that the proposition of arbitration, if made, must be 
rejected. Mr. Buchanan repeated the anxiety he had 
often expressed to permit the negotiation to be re- 
opened with the hope that the dispute might be 
settled by Compromise. He desired to know, as he 
had done on several occasions, what he should say 
to the Brittish Minister, if he should call to hold a 
conference with him, and to know also [what he 
should say] if a new proposition was made by the 
Brittish Minister, or if he should express a willing- 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 135 

ness to re-open the negotiation by making such new 
proposition. He desired to know if he could in- 
form the Brittish Minister that any new proposition 
he would make would be respectfully considered. 
He desired to know also, if the Brittish Minister 
should offer the 49 of North Latitude as the 
boundary from the Rocky Mountains to the Straits 
of Fuca leaving the Southern cap [e] of Vancouver's 
Island to Great Brittain," whether I would submit 
such a proposition to the Senate for their previous 
advice. In relation to the latter inquiry I told him 
if an equivalent, by granting to the U. S. free ports 
North of 49 on the sea & the Straits of Fuca should 
also be offered, I would consult confidentially three 
or four Senators from different parts of the Union, 
and might submit it to the Senate for their previous 
advice. 

Mr. Buchanan then said he would reduce to writ- 
ing what he might say, to which I remarked I had 
no objection. He accordingly wrote the following, 
viz., " If Mr. Pakenham inquires if a new propo- 
sition made by them would be respectfully consid- 
ered, I would refer him to the correspondence and 
your last note of the 30th of August, and say, it has 
been at your option with a perfect liberty to propose 
any proposition you thought proper, and you had 
no reason to conclude from what had occurred here 
that the Government would not have treated such a 
'proposition with respectful consideration when made. 
You have made no new proposition, & the question 
therefore stands in its present attitude." 

Mr. Buchanan added to the above, & immediately 



136 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Dec. 

below on the same sheet of paper, the following, viz., 
" December 23rd, 1845. I took down the foregoing 
from the lips of the President in the presence of the 
Cabinet." 

I requested Mr. Buchanan to leave his memoran- 
dum with me, and I would look over it when I was 
more at leisure, and he did so. I requested Mr. 
Buchanan [to call] immediately after breakfast on 
to-morrow morning when I would see him again on 
the subject. 

Wednesday, 24th December, 1845. — Saw com- 
pany to-day until 12 O'Clock when my doors were 
closed. Shortly after 12 O'Clock Hon. Henry Horn 
was announced & I directed that he be shown in. 
Mr. Horn was in conversation with me on the subject 
of his nomination to the Senate as Collector of Phil- 
adelphia, when Mr. Buchanan called in and after 
shaking hands with Mr. Horn & myself immediately 
retired, although invited to take a seat. He went 
into my Private Secretary's room. Mr. Horn left 
in a few minutes when my Private Secretary in- 
formed me that Mr. Buchanan had left. My Pri- 
vate Secretary informed me that Mr. Buchanan 
seemed to be in a pet, and asked him how long Mr. 
Horn would probably remain; to which he replied 
that he did not know how long it would take him 
to get through his grievances. Mr. Buchanan said 
he had some grievances too. The truth is Mr. Bu- « 
chanan has been for some days, when I saw him, 
taciturn, with a careworn countenance and appar- 
ently in trouble, I know of no cause for it but the 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 137 

difference between us on the Oregon question, which 
has existed from the time he entered on the nego- 
tiation; and the appointment of a Judge of the Su- 
preme Court of the U. S. for Pennsylvania and New 
Jersey, in place of Judge Baldwin, deceased. In 
reference to the Oregon question, I have from the 
Beginning refused to yield to Mr. B.'s views, and 
in reference to the Judgeship I was responsible to 
the country for the appointment and did not select 
Mr. B.'s choice. He was most anxious to have Mr. 
John. M. Read 1 of Phila. appointed. Mr. Read, 
I learned, was until within 10 or 12 years ago a 
leading Federalist, and a Representative of that 
party in the Legislature. Although he has since 
that time acted with the Democratic party, I have 
no confidence in the orthodoxy of his political opin- 
ions or constitutional doctrines, and was therefore 
unwilling to appoint him to a station for life, where 
he would almost certainly [have] relapsed into his 
old Federal Doctrines & been latitudinarian in his 
doctrines. I have never known an instance of a Fed- 
eralist who had after arriving at the age of 30 pro- 
fessed to change his opinions, who was to be relied on 
in his constitutional opinions. All of them who have 
been appointed to the Supreme Court Bench, after 
having secured a place for life became very soon 
broadly Federal and latitudinarian in all their de- 
cisions involving questions of Constitutional power. 
Gen'l Jackson had been most unfortunate in his ap- 

1 John Meredith Read, noted for his legal attainments ; his 
later life testified to the force of Polk's reasoning. He became 
a Free-Soil Democrat and still later a Republican. 



138 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Dec. 

pointments to that Bench in this respect. I resolved 
to appoint no man who was not an original Dem- 
ocrat & strict constructionist, and who would be less 
likely to relapse into the Broad Federal doctrines 
of Judge Marshall & Judge Story. Objection[s] 
similar to those to Mr. Read existed to Judge Grier * 
of Pittsburg, Gov. Vroom, 2 and others who were 
earnestly urged upon me for appointment, but in a 
less degree. I became satisfied from information 
received from Vice President Dallas, Hon. Mr. 
Wilmot, & Mr. Leib 3 of the Ho. of Repts. & Hon. 
Andrew Beaumont, 4 with whom I served in Con- 
gress and in whom I have great confidence, that 
Judge George W. Woodward 5 was a sound, original, 
& consistent democrat, of the strict construction 
school, that he was a man of fine talents & well 
qualified. On yesterday I renominated Mr. Wood- 
ward to the Senate, and in doing so greatly disap- 
pointed and as I suppose dissatisfied Mr. Buchanan. 
I would have been pleased to gratify him by the 
appointment of Mr. Read, if I could have regarded 
it as a personal favour to Mr. Buchanan. I could 
not so regard it, and could not appoint Mr. Read 

1 Robert Cooper Grier of Pennsylvania, 1 794-1870, Associate- 
Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, 1 846-1 870. 

2 Peter D. Vroom, Governor of New Jersey 1 829-1 832, and 
1833-1836. 

3 Owen D. Leib, Representative from Pennsylvania 1 845-1 847. 

4 Representative from Pennsylvania 1833-1837, Commissioner 
of Public Buildings at Washington 1 846-1 847. 

5 George Washington Woodward of the 4th judicial district 
court of Pennsylvania 1841-1851, Judge of Supreme Court of 
Pennsylvania 1 852-1 867. 



ms] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 139 

with the conviction and moral certainty which ex- 
isted in my mind that he would, as soon as con- 
firmed by the Senate, be broadly Federal in all his 
constitutional opinions. I suppose the grievances of 
which he spoke to my Private Secretary consisted 
chiefly of my refusal to appoint Mr. Read, as he 
earnestly desired me to do. Mr. Woodward was 
nominated for the reasons before stated, and because 
the friends of other candidates had gotten into an 
excited state between each other. Mr. Woodward 
did not apply for the office, but was warmly recom- 
mended by Mr. Dallas and the other Gentlemen I 
have named above. 

I sent for Mr. Allen, the Chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Foreign Affairs in the Senate to-day, and 
held a long and confidential conversation with him 
on the subject of the Oregon question. I read to 
him Mr. McLane's last despatch, and also one of 
the 3rd of October. The present position of the 
question and indeed the whole subject was discussed 
at length. I told him that I anticipated that the 
Brittish Minister would soon either make an offer 
for arbitration, which we must reject, or would 
make some new proposition of compromise. He 
agreed that the proposition for arbitration must be 
rejected. He advised me that if a new proposition 
of compromise should be made by him of the 49 
or equivalent to it, to submit it confidentially to the 
Senate for their previous advice before I acted upon 
it. The reasons for this course were discussed at 
some length, and I agreed in the propriety of the 
course he advised. 



i 4 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Dec. 

Hopkins L. Turney of the Senate from Tennessee 
called about 6 O'Clock P. M., having previously 
written to me that he desired to see me on the sub- 
ject of the Oregon question. He opened the con- 
versation by saying that he wished to ascertain my 
views and intentions on the Oregon question with a 
view to regulate his own conduct as a Senator by 
them, and expressed his intention to support my ad- 
ministration on that and all other subjects. I told 
him the question stood precisely as it did when I 
delivered my message to Congress, the Brittish Min- 
ister having taken no steps since that time. He 
spoke of the difference of opinion among the Dem- 
ocratic Senators, and among other things said that 
before Mr. Calhoun's arrival in Washington he had 
been assured by some of his friends that he would 
support the views of the administration on the Ore- 
gon question, but that since his arrival he had had 
some conversation with him and was satisfied he 
would not do so. He found too that Mr. C.'s 
friends who had given him the assurance above re- 
ferred to, since his arrival had changed their opin- 
ions, and he mentioned two Southern Senators who 
had done so. He said that Mr. Benton would not 
support the administration on the question, and that 
Mr. Benton and Mr. Calhoun in his opinion would 
be found acting together in opposition, whenever 
they thought it safe to break ground against the ad- 
ministration. He said many members of Congress 
from the South were opposed to war and would fol- 
low Mr. Calhoun, while some members from the 
West were almost mad on the subject of Oregon, and 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 141 

that I was between these two fires and whatever I 
might do I must dissatisfy the one or the other of 
these sections of the party. He then asked me (if 
I did not think it improper to answer the question) 
if I had made up my mind what course I would 
take if Great Brittain should renew the offer of the 
49 or something equivalent to it. To this I an- 
swered that my opinions on the whole subject were 
candidly set forth in the message, and that I adhered 
to the opinions there expressed; but that if such a 
proposition as he had supposed was made, the de- 
cision upon it would probably involve the question 
of peace or War. I told [him] in event of such 
proposition being made I would feel inclined to 
take the advice of the Senate confidentially before 
I acted on it. This Mr. Turney heartily approved 
and said he would conform his action on the subject 
to this view of the case. 

Mr. Turney had much conversation with me on 
the subject. He said shortly after he reached Wash- 
ington Mr. Benton had a conversation with him, and 
that he was well satisfied that Mr. Benton enter- 
tained no friendly feelings towards me or my ad- 
ministration. He informed me that Col. Benton 
asked him if there was not a combination among my 
friends in Tennessee to defeat Mr. Van Buren and 
to run me for a second term, to which he said he 
replied that he had never heard such a suggestion 
in the State. Col. Benton spoke, he said, of the 
Baltimore Convention of 1844, 1 and charged cor- 

1 For Benton's opinion of this convention see his Thirty Years* 
View, II, 591-596. George Bancroft later asserted that he was 



142 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Dec. 

ruption and fraud upon them. Mr. T. said he told 
him that after Mr. Van Buren's [letter] 1 on Texas 
came out in the Spring of 1844, and the people were 
all against his views, that my name had not been 
mentioned for the Presidency except conjecturally 
among a few friends, as a possible event if a new 
candidate should be nominated. Mr. T. expressed 
the distinct opinion that Col. B. would oppose my 
administration, whenever a fair pretext to do so oc- 
curred. He said however that his opposition would 
amount to nothing more than his own single vote in 
the Senate. Mr. Calhoun, he said, could take some 
Southern strength with him, and the two combined 
might give me trouble. 

I remark, on this information thus communicated 
to me, that I have no doubt both Mr. B. & Mr. C. 
apprehend that I may be a candidate for re-election, 
for which there is not the slightest foundation. My 
mind has been made up from the time I accepted 
the Baltimore nomination, and is still so, to serve 
but one term and not to be a candidate for re-election. 

the man responsible for the nomination of Polk, and that he 
worked up the movement in favor of Polk after he had become 
convinced that Van Buren's nomination was impossible and that 
of Cass was becoming probable. Bancroft's statement seems to 
destroy much of Benton's plot theory. — Letter to J. G. Harris, 
Aug. 30, 1877, m Lenox Library, New York. 

1 Van Buren's letter expressing his opposition to the immediate 
annexation of Texas was published in the Washington Globe 
April 27, 1844. The opposition roused by it caused him to lose 
the Presidential nomination at the hands of his party in the Bal- 
timore Convention of the following month. The letter may also 
be found in Niles' Register LXVI, 153. 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 143 

Mr. Haralson of Geo., Chairman of the Com- 
mittee on Military Affairs of the Ho. Repts., called 
about I 1 /?. O'Clock P. M. and held a conversation 
with me on the subject of preparing measures in 
Congress to put the country in a state of defence. 
I advised that it should be done without delay, for 
though I did not apprehend immediate war if it 
came at all, yet as we [k]new large preparations 1 
of an extraordinary nature were making in England, 
it was the part of prudence that we should be pre- 
pared for any contingency. We had a conversa- 
tion on the kind of preparation which was required, 
running into some details. I referred him to the 
Secretary of War with whom I had conversed, and 
who would co-operate with him in digesting and 
preparing the proper measures. 

The several conversations held to-day with Mr. 
Allen, Mr. Turney, and Mr. Haralson were under- 
stood to be confidential. 

Thursday, 25th December, 1845. — This being 
Christmas day no company called, with a very few 
exceptions, who remained but for a short time. 
Congress had adjourned over, the public offices 
were closed, and no public business was transacted. 
After night Mr. Buchanan called. His manner was 
one of some agitation and care. He made known 
the object of his visit by saying that he wished to 
converse with me on a subject which had caused him 

1 Reeves, American Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk, chap. 10, 
discusses the question of the likelihood of war with England at 
this time. 



144 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Dec. 



to spend two sleepless nights. He said that I had 
a right to nominate Judge Woodward to the Su- 
preme Bench of the U. S., but that I should have 
done so as I had done on tuesday last without in- 
forming him of it was what he complained [of]. I 
promptly answered that as President of the U. S. I 
was responsible for my appointments, and that I had 
a perfect right to make them without consulting my 
Cabinet, unless I desired their advice. Mr. B. said 
it had been done by all my predecessors. I told him 
I did not so understand it. I said to him in refer- 
ence to this appointment that he knew, when some 
time ago he had expressed a desire to have the place 
himself, I had said to him that if he desired it I 
would appoint him, but that I desired him to. re- 
main in the Cabinet and that it would be with very 
great reluctance that I would agree to his retire- 
ment from the Cabinet. I told him that I had 
frankly informed [him] of this, and after some days 
of reflection he had called and voluntarily with- 
drawn all desire to go on the Bench. He said 
[that] was true. I told him that after he had with- 
drawn, he had urged the appointment of Mr. Jno. 
M. Read of Philadelphia, and that I therefore 
knew his opinion and wishes; that I was not satis- 
fied with Mr. Read, had made up my mind that I 
could not appoint him, and that any further con- 
sultation with him in reference to Mr. Read would 
have been useless. I told him that on tuesday morn- 
ing last, being Cabinet day, before I sent the nomina- 
tion of Mr. Woodward to the Senate I had read 
the message containing this and other nominations 



1845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 145 

to some members of the Cabinet who had come in; 
that he did not happen to be present or it would 
have been read in his presence, and that certainly 
there was no intention to conceal it from him. He 
said that I left the Cabinet room for a few minutes 
&, as he supposed, went into my private Secretary's 
room, who shortly afterwards came in & took the 
message out; that he had inquired of the Secretary 
of War if I had made the nomination, & that he 
had informed him that I had read the message to 
him & the Secretary of the Treasury that morning 
when the Cabinet were assembling. He said that 
when the Cabinet adjourned & he returned to his 
office he received a note in pencil from Dr. Suther- 
land at the Capitol informing him that Mr. Wood- 
ward had been nominated, and that he was deeply 
mortified that I had not consulted him before I did 
so; that it was not the appointment of Judge Wood- 
ward, but the fact that I had not informed him of 
my intention to nominate him, of which he com- 
plained. I told him that I had not intended to 
mortify him by concealing the nomination from him. 
He said reverse the case; suppose I had been Presi- 
dent and you Secretary of State, and I [had] been 
about to appoint a Judge from Tennessee, would 
you not have thought you ought to have been con- 
sulted by me before I made the nomination[?]. I 
told him I had once conversed with him fully, that 
I knew Mr. Read was his choice, that I thought 
Mr. Woodward the preferable man; but that per- 
haps it would have been better to have mentioned 
it to him again, but that as I knew no further con- 



146 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Dec. 

versation I could have had with him could have 
changed my mind, I had not thought it necessary 
to do so. I told him that if I had supposed that 
he would have taken the view of it he had, I cer- 
tainly should have mentioned it to him again before 
I made the nomination; and that I regretted that 
anything had occurred to give him pain. He then 
said that the impression was becoming general among 
his friends in Pennsylvania that the patronage of 
the Government here was wielded against him. I 
told him that he knew that nothing was more un- 
founded, and after a long conversation, in which 
the appointments which had been made in Penn- 
sylvania [were discussed], he expressed himself as 
entirely satisfied. In the close of the conversation 
I expressed my gratification that he was satisfied, 
and [remarked] that hereafter I would endeavour 
to avoid even the appearance of what would give 
him dissatisfaction. I repeated that being alone re- 
sponsible for my appointments I must myself be sat- 
isfied before I made them; that I should be happy 
if my Cabinet were satisfied with them, but if they 
were not I must act on my own convictions of what 
was right. It was a painful conversation, but Mr. 
Buchanan finally retired, expressing himself to be 
satisfied. 

FRIDAY, 26th December, 1845. — Nothing of 
much interest occurred to-day; received company up 
to 12 O'Clock, and then closed my office & attended 
to the business on my table. At 5 O'Clock P. M. 



i845] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 147 

had a dining party of between 30 & 40 persons, con- 
sisting of Senators and Representatives, ladies, &c. 

SATURDAY, 27th December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members present. 
Mr. Buchanan, with whom I had the conversation 
on the 25th Instant, appeared to be pleasant in his 
manner and in quite a good humor. The only im- 
portant subject considered at this meeting was the 
Oregon question. I brought the subject up & asked 
the opinion of the Cabinet if Mr. Pakenham should 
offer the 49 ° or a proposition equivalent to it what 
I should do. Each member of the Cabinet gave 
his opinion individually that in that case I should 
refer it to the Senate & ask their previous advice 
before I acted, until the question was propounded 
to the Post Master General, who was the last to give 
his opinion. He appeared at first to be against such 
a course. I then asked him if he would advise me 
to reject it, without submitting it to the Senate. 
After some discussion among the members of the 
Cabinet he said that would be a difficult question, 
as we had once offered 49 , and finally agreed with 
the other members of the Cabinet that it would be 
proper to ask the advice of the Senate. It was 
agreed unanimously by the Cabinet that if a prop- 
osition for arbitration should be made, as was prob- 
able from Mr. McLane's last despatch, it should be 
rejected. 

The Cabinet adjourned at about 3 O'Clock P. M. 

At 10 P. M. Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Bancroft called, 



148 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Dec. 

and the former informed me that immediately after 
he left the Cabinet he met Mr. Pakenham at the 
State Department, who submitted a proposition to 
refer to arbitration the Oregon question. The de- 
spatch was read. It proposed to refer the question 
not of title but to divide the Oregon Territory, to 
the arbitrament of some friendly power. I in- 
stantly said it must be rejected, in which decision 
Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Bancroft both agreed. 

SUNDAY, 28th December, 1 845. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. 

MONDAY, 2Qth December, 1845. — Saw company 
to-day up to 12 O'Clock. The committee of enroll- 
ments of the two Houses of Congress presented to me 
to-day a Joint Resolution for the admission of Texas 
into the Union, & an Act to extend the laws of the 
U. S. over the State of Texas. I approved & signed 
them, and at 9 O'Clock P. M. delivered authenti- 
cated copies of them, and a letter addressed to Presi- 
dent Jones of Texas, to Capt. Tod of Texas, who was 
employed as special messenger to bear them to 
President Jones. 

To-day Mr. Buchanan sent to me for my approval 
the rough draft of a despatch to Mr. McLane trans- 
mitting to him a copy of Mr. Pakenham's note of 
the 27th Instant, proposing to refer the Oregon 
question to arbitration. I struck out the following 
paragraph, viz., " We had supposed that instead of 



i8 4 5] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i 49 

this they would have continued the negotiation, by 
presenting a new proposition for an adjustment of 
the controversy by the action of the parties them- 
selves." With [this] amendment I returned the 
draft to Mr. Buchanan. 

TUESDAY, JOth December, 1845. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Attorney General, who was profes- 
sionally engaged in the Supreme Court of the U. 
States. Several public subjects were considered and 
disposed of, after which Mr. Pakenham's despatch of 
the 27th Instant proposing to refer the Oregon ques- 
tion to arbitration was read, when it was unanimously 
agreed that it should be rejected. The terms and 
character of the answer were considered, and it was 
agreed that Mr. Buchanan should prepare the an- 
swer and have it ready to submit at the next meet- 
ing of the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan read the sub- 
stance of the conversation which had taken place 
between Mr. Pakenham and himself when the 
former delivered to him his despatch on the 27th 
Instant; and [which] he, Mr. B., had reduced to 
writing. 

WEDNESDAY, Jlst December, 184^- — Saw com- 
pany in my office until 12 O'Clock to-day. The bal- 
ance of the day was occupied in disposing of the 
business on my table. Mr. Levy & Mr. Wescott, 1 
Senators from Florida, called at 2 O'Clock P. M., 

1 James D. Westcott, 1802-1880, Senator from Florida 1845- 
1849. 



150 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Jan. 

when the latter presented to me a fine walking cane 
of Prime Wood, the growth of Florida, and a box 
containing various specimens of the agricultural 
productions of Florida, which were presented to me 
through him by Gov. Moseley i of Florida. 

Several members of Congress called after night 
and held conversations on public subjects. 

THURSDAY, 1st January, 1846. — This being the 
first day of a new year, the President's Mansion was 
open for the reception of company according to cus- 
tom. At a few minutes after 11 O'Clock A. M. the 
members of the Cabinet and the ladies of their 
families, with a few friends began to assemble. At 
about half past 11 O'Clock the Diplomatic Corps, 
in full court dress, with the ladies of their families 
came in and paid their respects. At 12 O'Clock all 
the halls, parlours and the East Room were crowded 
with visitors, ladies and gentlemen, and persons of 
all ages and sexes, without distinction of rank or 
condition in life. I shook hands with thousands of 
them, and interchanged salutations with them. The 
day passed of! pleasantly and at about 2j4 O'Clock 
P. M. the company began to retire, and before 3^ 
O'Clock they had with few exceptions retired. The 
most perfect order prevailed. 

FRIDAY, 2nd January, 1 846. — Had a busy day, 
listening chiefly to office seekers most of whom were 
more importunate than meritorious. I closed my 

1 William D. Moseley, 1795-1868, Governor of Florida 1845- 
1849. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 151 

doors at 12 O'Clock, but several members of Con- 
gress came to my Private Secretary's Office with 
their friends to introduce them, and I was com- 
pelled to see them or run the hazard of giving them 
offence. The day was unprofitably spent, not having 
an opportunity to transact much of the business on 
my table. 

I find that I will be compelled to refuse company 
absolutely, at 12 O'Clock each day, in order to be 
enabled to discharge promptly my public duties. 

Mr. Buchanan submitted to me the project of his 
answer to Mr. Pakenham's note, proposing to refer 
the Oregon question to arbitration. 

SATURDAY, 3rd January, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. 

Mr. Buchanan read the draft of his answer to 
[the note of] Mr. Pakenham proposing to refer the 
Oregon question to arbitration, which he had sub- 
mitted to me on yesterday. It was agreed unani- 
mously that the proposition to arbitrate should be 
rejected. The terms in which the rejection should 
be made were discussed and after full consideration 
agreed on. Mr. Buchanan said he would deliver 
the answer this day. 1 

At 7 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Dickins, the Secretary 
of the Senate, called and communicated to me a part 
of the Executive Journal of the Senate, viz., a Res- 
olution introduced in Executive Session by Mr. 
Cameron, one of the Senators from Pennsylvania, 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI, 355. 



i 5 2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Jan. 

calling on the President for the recommendations 
upon which Henry Horn had been appointed Col- 
lector of Philadelphia, and also for a protest of cer- 
tain members of the Pennsylvania delegation in Con- 
gress against Mr. Horn's nomination to the Senate. 
The nomination was made several days ago & is now 
pending before the Senate. Mr. Dickins informed 
me that he had directed one of his clerks to search, 
in order to see whether there was any precedent for 
such a call, and said no such call had ever been made 
on the President since he had been Secretary of the 
Senate, & he thought none such had ever been 
made. 

Shortly after Mr. Dickins left Mr. Haywood, 1 
Chairman of the Committee of Commerce of the 
Senate, called on the same subject. He appeared 
to be very indignant that such a Resolution had been 
introduced, and said that under the rules of the 
Senate it had been laid over for consideration one 
day and would not come up until Monday. He re- 
quested me to send to him the papers relating to 
Mr. Horn's appointment, and he would expose Mr. 
Cameron on the floor of the Senate. He said he 
would inform the Senate that Mr. Cameron had 
never called on the Committee of Commerce, to 
which Mr. Horn's nomination was referred, to know 
if they had the papers referred to, or what informa- 
tion they had. Mr. Cameron, I have learned from 
Mr. Wescott of the Senate and other sources, is active 
in his exertions to have Mr. Woodward's nomina- 

1 William Henry Haywood, 1801-1852, Senator from North 
Carolina 1 843-1 846. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 153 

tion as Judge of the Supreme Court of the U. S. 
rejected. I hope my suspicions may be wrong, but 
facts and circumstances which have come to my 
knowledge, I think justify me in indulging them, 
that Mr. Buchanan has given countenance to these 
movements of opposition on the part of Mr. Cam- 
eron. It will be deeply painful to me, if I ascer- 
tain that my suspicions are correct, but if I do so 
ascertain, I will act with promptness and energy 
towards Mr. Buchanan, whatever the consequences 
to myself or my administration may be. 

SUNDAY, 4th January, 1846. — Attended St. Mat- 
thews (Catholic) church to-day, in company with 
Judge Catron * of the Supreme Court of the U. S. 
and Mr. Corcoran 2 of Washington. I was re- 
quested on last evening to attend that church to-day, 
and did so accordingly. Mrs. Polk & the family 
attended other churches as usual; Mrs. P. & Miss 
Rucker attending the first Presbyterian Church & 
Col. Walker's family St. John's Church. 

At about 7 O'Clock P. M. my messenger, Wil- 
liam Day, brought to me a card marked " James A. 
Black of So. Ca., Important," and informed me that 
the gentleman was in waiting below. I departed 
from my established rule to see no company on the 
Sabbath, and told the messenger to show the gentle- 

1 John Catron of Tennessee, 1 778-1865, Associate-Justice of the 
U. S. Supreme Court 1 837-1 865. 

2 William Wilson Corcoran of the banking firm of Corcoran 
and Riggs; noted for his philanthropic enterprises and for his 
gifts in support of letters and the fine arts. 



154 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Jan. 

man up. He did so. Mr. Black, who is a member 
of the Ho. of Repts. from South Carolina, after 
making an apology for calling on the Sabbath, which 
was the importance of the subject about which he 
wished to converse. He then introduced the Ore- 
gon Question, and expressed his apprehension & 
belief that the question of the notice to terminate 
the joint occupation under the Convention of 1827, 
would produce a serious split in the Democratic 
party in Congress. He said the North Western 
members were for the notice, were excited, and he 
feared would act rashly and imprudently, and that 
Mr. Calhoun and a portion of the Southern members 
were against the notice. He said he had been en- 
deavoring to harmonize them and bring them to- 
gether on some common ground; that for this pur- 
pose he had seen Mr. Senator Semple 1 of 111. & 
Mr. Senator Atchison 2 of Mo., that he thought they 
would agree not to press the notice if the South 
would unite with them in supporting all the other 
recommendations of my message, including grants 
of land to emigrants to Oregon, with this provision, 
that if any of the settlers in Oregon should locate 
themselves on the Brittish side of the line which by 
any future arrangement between the two Govern- 
[me]nts might be established as a boundary between 
them, they should have floats & land titles to be lo- 

1 James Semple, 1798-1866, Senator from Illinois 1843-1847, 
an active advocate of the 54 40' policy with reference to Oregon. 

2 David R. Atchison of Missouri, 1 805-1 886, Senator from 
Missouri 1 843-1 855, leader of the Missouri pro-slavery faction in 
the Kansas troubles of 1 855-1 857. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 15s 

cated elsewhere. He said he had seen Mr. Calhoun 
& he thought, though he was not authorized to say 
positively, that he would agree to this proposition; 
that he doubted about granting floats to settlers, &c. 
He said in the present excited state of the Ho. of 
Repts., he apprehended that the question of Notice 
would be forced to a vote under the operation of 
the Previous question, before the compromise or 
understanding of which he was speaking [could be 
arranged], and his [purpose] was to get me to inter- 
pose with my friends in Congress to gain time by 
postponing action for a few days. I told him that 
my opinions were contained in my message, that they 
had been well considered, and that I had not 
changed them; that I had recommended the Notice 
and thought it ought to be given. I remarked to 
him that the only way to treat John Bull was to 
look him straight in the eye; that I considered a bold 
& firm course on our part the pacific one; that if 
Congress faultered or hesitated in their course, John 
Bull would immediately become arrogant and more 
grasping in his demands; & that such had been the 
history of the Brittish Nation in all their contests 
with other Powers for the last two hundred years. 
I remarked to him that I had said in my message 
that if the wisdom of Congress could devise any 
better plan to maintain our rights in Oregon than 
I had suggested, that I would heartily co-operate 
with them. The whole Oregon subject was dis- 
cussed in a lengthy conversation. Mr. Black asked 
me if I would have any objection to hold a free con- 
ference with some of the Western Senators and Mr. 



156 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Jan. 

Calhoun. I told him I would do so cheerfully, if 
they desired it. Mr. Black expressed himself 
strongly in favour of our claim to Oregon, and in- 
timated, but did not expressly say, that he might 
separate from his Southern friends in his vote on the 
question of notice. He seemed to be much con- 
cerned, and most anxious to gain time in order to 
see if the Democratic party in Congress could not 
be brought to act together upon some proposition of 
compromise. I think him a sensible & patriotic 
man, and that his motives are good. I think it 
probable that his visit to me was at the instance of 
Mr. Calhoun, who is probably becoming uneasy at 
his position on the Oregon question and may be de- 
sirous to extricate himself from it, though this is 
more an inference than any evidence of the fact de- 
rived from Mr. Black's conversation. 

MONDAY, $th January, 1 846. — Had a very busy 
day, saw much company, and was enabled to trans- 
act but little of the business on my table. Saw 
several Senators & Representatives and had conver- 
sations with them on the Oregon Question, and 
among them Senator Allen and Senator Cass. 

The Senate, I learn, adjourned after a very short 
sitting to-day, on the motion of Mr. Calhoun. A 
member of the House mentioned to me that Mr. 
McDuffie had come from a sick room to vote for 
the adjournment, and that he suspected that there 
was some object in procuring an adjournment. This 
is perhaps explained by Mr. Black's conversation 
with me last night. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 157 

TUESDAY, 6th January, 1 846.— The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except the Attorney General, who was understood to 
be officially engaged in attending the Supreme 
Court of the U. States. 

No business of importance was transacted. Sev- 
eral public matters were the subject of conversation, 
and the Cabinet dispersed between 1 & 2 O'Clock 
P.M. 

Had a dinner party to-day, consisting of between 
30 and 40 people, Senators and Representatives and 
about a dozen ladies of their families. 

WEDNESDAY, Jth January, 1846. — Saw company 
until 1 P.M. to-day; and spent the balance of the 
day in disposing of the business on my table. 

At 6 O'Clock this evening, Mr. Buchanan sent 
me a note from Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish Minis- 
ter, dated on the 6th Instant, in which he informed 
him that he would transmit to his Government Mr. 
Buchanan's note of the 3rd Instant, declining to ac- 
cept his (Mr. Pakenham's) proposition to refer the 
Oregon question to arbitration. 

THURSDAY, 8th January, 1846. — Nothing re- 
markable transpired to-day; saw company and trans- 
acted business as usual. At about 1 P. M. a 
committee of members of Congress and citizens 
called, to invite me & the family to attend the 8th of 
January Ball at Carusi's 1 rooms to-night. Having 

1 Carusi's Saloon, a fashionable assembly place of this period, 
was on C St. between 10 and n Sts. northwest. 



i S 8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Jan. 

seen in the City newspapers that I was to be invited, 
and knowing that it was expected that I would at- 
tend, I told them I would do so, though I think they 
were rather late calling on me. It was, however, 
a day of national rejoicing as commemorating the 
victory of New Orleans, and I thought it unneces- 
sary that I should intimate to them that they had 
been tardy in calling. At ^y 2 O'Clock P. M. the 
Committee called & attended me to the Ball room 
where I remained about two hours. 

FRIDAY, Qth January, 1846. — Saw company until 
1 2 O'Clock to-day ; had an unusual number of visitors 
in my office, male & female, to call on visits of cere- 
mony. Had also the calls of many office seekers, 
but having learned to say No! with a good grace, 
I soon disposed of them. Unfortunately a portion 
of our people, and I must say not the most merito- 
rious, seem to have concluded that the chief end of 
Government is office. They are most importunate 
in their demands, and I have learned that the only 
way to treat them is to be decided & stern. 

Had a dinner party to-day consisting of between 
30 & 40 persons, ladies & gentlemen, all of them 
members of Congress & their families, except Mr. 
Ritchie, Ed. of the Union, 

SATURDAY, IOth January, 1846. — Mr. Senator 
Calhoun of S. C. called this morning & introduced a 
Catholic Priest of Columbia, S. C, who was on his 
way, as Mr. C. said, to Europe on the business of 
his church & to visit the Pope. The Priest remained 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 159 

but a few minutes and retired, Mr. Calhoun remain- 
ing. Mr. C. introduced the subject of the Oregon 
question. He expressed himself as being very de- 
sirous of acting with the administration on the sub- 
ject; that he knew we desired peace as well as him- 
self, and went on at some length to give his views 
against giving the notice as recommended in my 
message to terminate or abrogate the Convention 
with Great Brittain of the 6th of August, 1827. He 
said he desired to pursue the course most likely to 
preserve peace, and desired to know if I had any 
information beyond what had been communicated 
to Congress on the probable course of the Brittish 
Government. I told him I had reason to believe, 
judging from the conversation of Mr. Pakenham 
with Mr. Buchanan and from the information com- 
municated by Mr. McLane at London, that Lord 
Aberdeen and Sir Robert Peel would be averse to 
going to War, but that no new proposition to com- 
promise the dispute had been made. I expressed 
the strong conviction that the notice should be given, 
that it was pacific, being expressly provided for by 
the convention of 1827, and that until it was done 
and the American Government boldly faced the 
Brittish power & asserted their rights, that the latter 
would yield nothing of her pretensions; that if the 
American Government faultered or hesitated Eng- 
land would become the more arrogant, and that until 
the question reached a crisis there would be no pros- 
pect of our obtaining justice. I urged other con- 
siderations in favour of giving the Notice, of carry- 
ing out the other recommendations of the message, 



160 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Jan. 

and taking a bold course, as the only proper course 
& one most likely in the end to preserve peace. Mr. 
C. said that the members of Congress who were in 
favour of giving the Notice would so vote from 
very different motives. The larger portion of them 
would vote for the notice from the belief that it 
would prevent any compromise, and in the event the 
notice was given & no compromise followed, in his 
opinion war was certain & inevitable. Another por- 
tion of members who would vote for the notice 
would do so believing that when the question was 
brought to this crisis, it would lead to a compromise 
& settlement of the question. He said he had con- 
versed fully with two of the most moderate & dis- 
creet Western Senators who were in favour of giv- 
ing the notice, who had avowed their object to be 
to prevent any compromise or settlement of the 
question; and that they had proposed to him, Mr. 
C, that if he would agree, [or] that he and his 
friends from the South would agree, not to support 
any compromise that might be made by the President, 
that they would in consideration of that compact on 
his, Mr. C.'s part, vote against giving the notice. 
He did not mention the names of the Western Sen- 
ators referred to, but I suppose they are the two 
named by the Hon. Mr. Black of S. C. 1 in his con- 
versation with me, as noted in this diary of Sunday, 
the 4th Instant. Mr. Buchanan about this stage of 
the conversation came in (this being Cabinet day). 
Mr. C. said he was glad to see him, as he had in- 
tended to call on him af[ter] seeing me. Mr. C 

1 Senator Semple of Illinois and Senator Atchison of Missouri. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 161 

continued the conversation, and in a few minutes the 
other members of the Cabinet came in in succession, 
first Mr. Walker, then Mr. Bancroft, and shortly 
afterwards the other members. Mr. C. turned to 
me & inquired if it was Cabinet day, to which I 
answered in the affirmative. He then intimated 
that he would leave, but I invited him to remain, 
as we had nothing very important to engage our at- 
tention to-day. He did so and continued the con- 
versation, addressing himself chiefly to Mr. Bu- 
chanan, and repeating substantially what he had said 
to me before the Cabinet came in. Mr. Buchanan 
remarked to him that he would be happy to have 
his support on this great question of the adminis- 
tration, and went on to reason in favor of giving the 
notice, and the question was debated between Mr. 
Buchanan and Mr. Calhoun. Mr. Bancroft and 
Mr. Walker engaged somewhat in the conversation 
and were in favour of the notice. Mr. Calhoun then 
spoke of the title of the two countries, and expressed 
the decided opinion that the Brinish title was as 
good to the valley of Frasier's River, as the Amer- 
ican title was to the valley of the Columbia River. 
He thought the Brinish title under the Nootka 
Sound Treaty 1 was a mere usufruct and conferred 
no claim; and he thought our title under Spain was 
not valid north of the valley of the Columbia River; 
that the Brittish discovered & occupied Frasier's 
River, and the Americans the Columbia River. He 

1 For the history of this treaty see Manning, " The Nootka 
Sound Controversy," Report of American Historical Association, 
1904, 279-478. 



162 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Jan. 

spoke of the country between the valleys of the two 
rivers, and thought neither had a valid title to it. 
He said he was in favour of 49 ° as the line of di- 
vision, and was willing in addition to this to yield 
to Great Brittain the cap[e] of Vancouver's Island 
South of 49 , and also, if I understood him, the free 
navigation of the Columbia River, though his re- 
marks on the latter point were rather incidental than 
direct. I participated but little in the conversation 
after Mr. Buchanan came in and the Cabinet com- 
menced assembling. I had in the beginning of the 
conversation fully expressed my opinions. Mr. Cal- 
houn was earnest in his manner, & was manifestly 
uneasy at his position. The conversation was one 
of some length. Mr. Mason, just before Mr. C. 
left, pointedly [?] remarked that the correspondence 
of Mr. C. & Mr. Buchanan had established our title 
& they were responsible for that. Mr. C. explained 
his participation in that correspondence & retired. 
Mr. Marcy & Mr. Johnson did not participate in 
the conversation. 

The Cabinet considered several subjects, and 
among others the project of a Treaty of extradition 
proposed by the Spanish Minister, but came to no 
decision in relation to it. 

I brought before the Cabinet the case of Lieut. 
Hurst, 1 late of the U. S. Navy, who was dismissed 
by me some months ago, for fighting a duel with a 
junior officer under his command, and who has ap- 

1 William Decatur Hurst, dismissed from the navy April 25, 
1845, for fighting a duel with a midshipman on the coast of 
Africa. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 163 

plied to be restored. Many of the Senior Officers 
of the Navy have united in the application for his 
restoration. The Secretary of the Navy had made 
a Report to me approving his dismissal as for good 
cause, but under the circumstances of his case recom- 
mending his restoration. The case was fully dis- 
cussed, when I took the opinions of the Cabinet. 
Mr. Walker & Mr. Johnson advised against his 
restoration. Mr. Marcy, Mr. Bancroft, & Mr. 
Mason advised in favour of his restoration. Mr. 
Buchanan said his judgment was against & his feel- 
ings in favour of restoration, but upon the whole he 
advised his restoration. I then remarked that I 
would postpone the case for further consideration, 
and requested Mr. Bancroft to send to me from his 
Department all the papers on file relating to the case, 
including the recommendations of officers of the 
Navy in his favour. 

SUNDAY, nth January, 1 846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day, in company with Mrs. 
Polk & my two nieces, Miss Rucker & Miss Walker. 

MONDAY, 1 2th January, 1846. — Kept my office 
open for the reception of visitors until 12 O'Clock. 
Had several visits afterwards which I could not re- 
fuse. A Committee of Congress called with an en- 
rolled bill to present to me for my approval and 
signature. Mr. Jarnigan * & Mr. Bright, 2 Senators 

1 Spencer Jarnagin, Senator from Tennessee 1 843-1 847. 

2 Jesse D. Bright, 1812-1875, Senator from Indiana 1845- 



i6 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Jan. 

from Tennessee & Indiana, presented the Bill. 
These gentlemen entered into conversation, in the 
course of which Mr. Jarnigan expressed his inten- 
tion to vote for the notice to abrogate the Convention 
of 1827 with England in reference to the Oregon 
question. I expressed my gratification on learning 
that such was his intention. 

Mrs. Polk and myself dined to-day with the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, being the first time we have dined 
out since I have been President. 

TUESDAY, Ijth January, 1846. — There was a 
regular meeting of the Cabinet to-day; all the mem- 
bers present except the Attorney General, who was 
understood to be officially engaged in the Supreme 
Court of the U. States. Despatches from Mexico, 
which had been received last evening, were read & 
considered. Some other public matters not impor- 
tant were also considered. 

Had a dinner party to-day of members of Con- 
gress and the ladies of their families, numbering be- 
tween 30 & 40 persons. 

WEDNESDAY, 14th January, 1846. — Saw com- 
pany as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that 
hour was engaged in transacting the business on my 
table. Mrs. Polk in the evening attended the marriage 
ceremony of the daughter of Genl. Jesup of the army. 
I declined to attend, but was engaged during her ab- 
sence in transacting business in my office. 

1862, when he was expelled because of a letter he had written to 
Jefferson Davis. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 165 

I omitted to note in this diary of the 12th Instant 
that Mr. Jarnigan, Senator from Tennessee, in the in- 
terview which he had with me on that day, remarked 
that he had received a note from Mr. Turney of the 
Senate from Tennessee asking him to state a conver- 
sation which took place between them, shortly after 
their arrival in Washington, which Mr. Jarnigan 
said he had done in substance as follows, to-wit, that 
he had asked Mr. Turney to visit the President with 
him, to which Mr. Turney had replied that he de- 
sired to ascertain what his relations were with the 
President first. 

THURSDAY, I$th January, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual in my office until 12 O'Clock to-day. At 1 
O'Clock P. M. Mr. Healey, 1 the French artist, sent 
to the U. S. by the King of the French to take the 
portraits of Genl. Jackson and other distinguished 
persons, called and exhibited the original portraits of 
Genl. Jackson, Mr. John Quincy Adams, and Mr. 
Henry Clay. They were exhibited in the parlour 
below stairs in the presence of the ladies of the fam- 
ily, and some company who had called. I thought 
the portrait of Genl. Jackson, which was completed 
only four days before his death, very good. Those 
of Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay were fair likenesses. 

During the last recess of the Senate I appointed 

1 George Peter Alexander Healy, born in Boston in 1813 and 
died in Chicago in 1894; noted for his portraits, of which he is 
said to have painted over six hundred. The largest collections 
of his works are in the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, and the 
Newberry Library, Chicago. 



i66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Jan. 

James H. Tate of Mississippi, Consul at Buenos 
Ayres, and Mr. Tate left the U. S. some time during 
the last summer or autumn to enter on his duties. 
Since the commencement of the present Session of 
Congress I nominated him to the Senate for con- 
firmation. After I had made the nomination Mr. 
Thompson, one of the Representatives from Missis- 
sippi, applied to me to withdraw the nomination, 
which I declined to do. I refer to this diary of the 
20th & 22nd of December last. On yesterday Mr. 
Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, called and 
after stating his favourable opinion of Mr. Tate, 
stated that from what he had learned his reputation 
had been assailed by Mr. Jacob Thompson before 
the Senate or with individual Senators, and he 
thought unless Mr. Tate could be present to answer 
or refute the charges (which he had no doubt he 
could do if he were present) that he would be re- 
jected by the Senate. Mr. Walker suggested to me 
that under the circumstances I should withdraw his 
nomination. I told him I could not do so. After 
some further conversation on the subject, I told him 
that I had conversed with the two Senators from 
Mississippi after his nomination had been sent to the 
Senate, and Mr. Thompson had called on me to with- 
draw it and I had refused, and that they both were 
in favour of his confirmation & had advised me not 
to withdraw it [the nomination], but that if anything 
had since transpired which had changed their minds 
and satisfied them that I ought to withdraw it, on 
learning that fact I would consider of it. Mr. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 167 

Walker left my office & I heard nothing more on 
the subject on yesterday. 

To-day about 1 1 O'Clock A. M. Mr. Walker called 
& informed me that he had seen the two Senators 
from Mississippi and held a conversation with them, 
and he delivered to me a letter from them of which 
the following is a copy, viz., " Washington, 14th 
J any. 1846. 

" His Excellency 

" The President of the U. S. 

Sir 
The nomination of James 
H. Tait, one of our constituents, for Consul at 
Buenos Ayres, was made by you upon the very 
strongest recommendations, which we esteem were 
well deserved. 

We regret to inform you that the confirmation of 
his appointment has been opposed upon grounds 
which can only be explained by Dr. Tait himself, 
and under such circumstances we would most re- 
spectfully advise you to withdraw his nomination 
for the present. 

We are 

Most Respectfully 
Your Obt. Serts., 
Jas. W. Chalmers 
J. Speight 
His Excellency 
Jas. K. Polk 
Prest. of the U. S.' 5 



168 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Jan. 

Immediately on receiving the foregoing letter I 
addressed a message to the Senate withdrawing the 
nomination of Dr. Tate. At the time I did so I was 
still satisfied that he was a worthy man, but I felt it 
to be proper to yield to the request of the two Sena- 
tors from Mississippi whose constituent he was. 

My Private Secretary on returning from the Sen- 
ate, after delivering the message withdrawing Dr. 
Tate['s] nomination, informed me that he had seen 
Mr. Senator Haywood of N. C, who expressed to 
him his regret that I had withdrawn Dr. Tate's 
nomination. 

FRIDAY, l6th January, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day as usual until 12 O'Clock, when I closed my 
office & attended to the business on my table. At 
about 2 O'Clock the porter informed me that Mr. 
Senator Haywood of N. C. had called and desired 
to see me. I directed that he be shown into my office. 
Mr. Haywood expressed his regret, that I had with- 
drawn Dr. Tate's nomination. I showed him the 
letter from the two Mississippi Senators which is 
recorded in the diary of yesterday, & informed him 
that it was upon that letter that I had withdrawn the 
nomination. He said he had heard that they had ad- 
dressed me such a letter, and said they were mistaken 
friends and bad counsellors, and had not treated me 
well, or as he as a true friend should have done. He 
then stated to me for the first time that I had heard it, 
that on the day before it was withdrawn, the nomina- 
tion had been under consideration in Secret Session 
of the Senate, and that a resolution had been offered 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 169 

in Secret Session, which was under debate and was 
left undecided at the adjournment on that day, which 
proposed to call on Mr. Walker for a statement in 
answer to the charges which had been made by Mr. 
Jacob Thompson to the Senate in Secret Session 
against Mr. Tate, that Mr. Walker was supposed to 
be involved in the controversy, and that my with- 
drawal of the nomination, as the record now stood, 
would have the appearance of my having done so to 
screen & save my Secretary of the Treasury. I ex- 
pressed my astonishment at this information, and at 
once told him that I never would have withdrawn 
the nomination if I had known. He said he knew I 
had been deceived, for immediately upon my mes- 
sage withdrawing the nomination reaching the Sen- 
ate he had gone to the Secretary of the Senate and 
inquired of him if he had given me a copy of the 
Executive Journal containing the resolution, & he in- 
formed him he had not. Mr. Haywood said he then 
knew I must have acted without a knowledge of 
its existence, & that I had been misled and deceived. 
I told him that the information he now gave me, was 
the first intimation I had of its existence. I was 
deeply mortified that I had been placed in so false 
a position before the Senate, and consulted with him 
as to the proper means of correcting it. I spoke of 
renominating Dr. Tate, and communicating with my 
message the letter of the two Mississippi Senators 
upon which I had withdrawn the nomination, and 
of stating that the Executive Journal not having been 
furnished to me by the Secretary of the Senate, I had 
no knowledge at the time of the pendency of the reso- 



170 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Jan. 

lution in Secret Session of the Senate, calling on 
Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. 
Haywood doubted whether this would be the proper 
course, and after some further conversation said he 
would consult with some of the Senators and see me 
again. I told [him] I would be glad if he would 
explain to any Senator he chose the true state of the 
facts, for I disliked exceedingly to stand in the false 
position in which the Executive Journal of the Sen- 
ate unexplained would place [me]. I told him he 
was at perfect liberty to take the letter of the two 
Mississippi Senators, and show it to any Senator 
whom he might choose. He took the letter accord- 
ingly and retired. The Senate had adjourned over 
yesterday until Monday next, and therefore no com- 
munication could be made to them before that day. 
Mr. Haywood said he had intended to leave the City 
to-night on a visit to his family in N. C, but he would 
remain until Monday, on account of this matter and 
some others which were before the Senate in Ex- 
ecutive Session. Among these was the nomination 
of Mr. Slidell as Minister to Mexico, which was op- 
posed. On leaving he said if he did not call sooner 
he would do so immediately after church on Sunday. 
Had a dinner party to-day consisting of between 
30 & 40 persons, members of Congress & ladies of 
their families. Among the guests was Mr. Senator 
Jarnagin of Tennessee, who mentioned to me the case 
of Dr. Tate's nomination, & said he thought I had 
bad advisers or I would not have withdrawn it. I 
explained the whole matter to him as I had to Mr. 
Haywood. He said he knew I had been deceived. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 171 

SATURDAY, IJth January, 1846. — I directed my 
Private Secretary, immediately after breakfast this 
morning, to call on the Secretary of the Senate to 
furnish me with a copy of the Executive Journal of 
the Senate, if by the rules of the Senate I was en- 
titled to receive it. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour this morning; 
all the members present. The Secretary of War 
stated that he had heard in his office, just before leav- 
ing it, that the Hon. William Taylor, one of the Rep- 
resentatives from the State of Virginia, died suddenly 
this morning. 

The subject of our relations with Mexico were 
[was] considered, and in view of the probability that 
a revolution had taken place in that country, addi- 
tional orders were agreed upon, with the object of 
concentrating our naval forces at Vera Cruz. Some 
other public matters were considered & disposed of. 
After the Cabinet had all left but Mr. Walker, the 
Secretary of the Treasury, I communicated to him 
the information which Mr. Senator Haywood had 
given me of the pending of a resolution in Secret 
Session in the Senate, calling on him (Mr. Walker) 
at the time I had withdrawn Dr. Tate's nomination. 
He expressed his great surprise at the information, 
and said he had never heard of it before. He saw, 
as I did, the false position in which both he and my- 
self were placed by the withdrawal of the nomina- 
tion whilst such a resolution of inquiry was pending. 
He said neither the Senators from Mississippi or any 
one else had informed him of it, and if he had known 
it he never would have advised the withdrawal of 



i 7 2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Jan. 

Dr. Tate's nomination as he had done. Mr. Walker 
had delivered to me the letter from the two Missis- 
sippi Senators on the 15th Instant and had concurred 
with them in advising the withdrawal of the nomina- 
tion, upon the ground that in Dr. Tate's absence no 
one could explain a part of the charges which he 
understood had been preferred against him by Mr. 
Thompson, consisting as they did in part of conversa- 
tions alleged to have taken place between Dr. Tate & 
Mr. Thompson, when no one but themselves were 
present. Mr. [Walker] expressed his unabated con- 
fidence in the honor & integrity of Dr. Tate, and said 
he deeply regretted that he had advised the with- 
drawal of his nomination, pending the resolution in 
Secret Session of the Senate, of which I now in- 
formed him. He said he had advised the with- 
drawal of his nomination believing that in his ab- 
sence he would probably be unjustly rejected by the 
Senate, but that when he returned he was confident 
he could and would fully explain & refute the 
charges made against him by Mr. Thompson. He 
said he would see the Mississippi Senators to-night, 
and call and see me again at 9 O'Clock to-morrow 
morning, if I would see him at that time. I told 
him I would do so. 

Between 3 & 4 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Dickins, the 
Secretary of the Senate, called and handed to me 
what he said was a copy of the Executive Journal 
of the Senate as follows, viz., "January 13th, 1846. 
On motion of Mr. Haywood the Senate proceeded to 
consider the nomination of James H. Tate & after 
debate 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 173 

Mr. Westcott submitted the following Resolution: 

" Resolved that the nomination be recommitted to 
the committee on Commerce and the committee be 
instructed to transmit the communication of the 
Honorable Jacob Thompson respecting the nominee 
to the Secretary of the Treasury, in order to afford 
that officer an opportunity to answer or explain such 
parts of the same as he may be desirous to do." 

I told Mr. Dickins that if I had been in possession 
of this information before I withdrew Dr. Tate's 
nomination I should not have withdrawn it, and in- 
quired of him why it had not been communicated, 
and what the rule of the Senate on the subject was. 
He answered, as I thought, in an evasive way, and 
manifested much indifference on the subject, saying 
that the clerks in his office were very busy and could 
not furnish copies daily with convenience. In rela- 
tion to the rule of the Senate, he said, in [on] a sec- 
ond inquiry made by me, that it was that a copy of the 
Executive Journal should be furnished to the Presi- 
dent from time to time by the Secretary. I ex- 
plained to him the embarrassment under which his 
failure to furnish me with a copy of the Journal had 
placed me in the case of Dr. Tate. He still by his 
manner & tone of conversation manifested great in- 
difference, and I came to the conclusion that I had 
no assurance from him that for the future I would 
be furnished with the copy of the Journal. So great 
was his apparent indifference that I felt indignant, 
and became perhaps a little excited. I then told him 



i74 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 Jan. 

in an earnest manner that [I] had no authority over 
him, and pretended to exercise none; but that if I 
was entitled to a copy of the Executive Journal of 
the Senate, I demanded that it should be furnished 
to me, and that if he did not furnish it I would com- 
municate the fact to the Senate and request that he 
should be required to do his duty. I told him that 
if he had done his duty I should have been saved the 
embarrassment in Dr. Tate's case, for I never would 
have withdrawn his nomination from the Senate. I 
told him that I was judge of what it was important 
for me to know on [in] the Executive Journal, and 
I demanded to be furnished daily with a copy of it. 
He seemed for the first time to become sensible of 
his position, and said I should be furnished with a 
copy of the Journal as desired. He expressed his 
regret that he had not furnished me with a copy in 
Dr. Tate's case. He made an apology for his failure 
to do so, and proposed to state the fact that he had 
not done so to the Senate through the Vice President. 
I told [him] no, not at my instance; that if I thought 
it necessary to make the fact known to the Senate I 
would do it myself. After his apology & a more 
full explanation, I told him that I supposed he had 
not intended to omit to do his duty, and that I hoped 
such an omission would not occur again. 

SUNDAY, 1 8th January, 1846. — Mr. Walker, the 
Secretary of the Treasury, called between 9 & 10 
O'Clock this morning. He told me he had seen the 
two Mississippi Senators and handed to me a letter 
from them of which the following is a copy, viz., 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 175 

"Washington, 17th J any., 1846. 
" His Excellency 
Jas. K. Polk 

Prest. of the U. S. 
Sir; 

At the time we advised you to withdraw the 
nomination of Dr. James H. Tate, it had not oc- 
curred to us that there was a resolution pending to 
call upon the Honl. R. J. Walker for further testi- 
mony in this matter, nor had we stated this fact to 
any one out of the Senate. 

The charge upon which it was expected to defeat 
the nomination, was conversations alleged to have 
taken place between Mr. Thompson & Dr. Tate 
when no one was present but these two gentlemen, 
and as such a charge could only be answered or ex- 
plained by Dr. Tate himself, we thought it proper 
to advise the withdrawal of his nomination. 
Respectfully your obt. serts. 

Jas. W. Chalmers 
J.Speight" 

Mr. Walker, after I had read this letter, entered 
into conversation on the subject and repeated his re- 
gret that under the circumstances the nomination of 
Dr. Tate had been withdrawn. He made a state- 
ment of the facts of the controversy between Mr. 
Thompson & Dr. Tate, & said he was the person 
whom Mr. Thompson intended in fact to assail. 
With this controversy I have nothing to do, and do 
not therefore deem it to be necessary to record Mr. 
Walker's statement concerning it, further than to 



176 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 Jan. 

remark that according to Mr. Walker's statement 
there is not in his conduct or in that of Dr. Tate 
anything to censure. Mr. Walker did not advise the 
renomination of Dr. Tate because, as he said, as the 
Mississippi Senators had stated in their last letter, 
the ground upon which he would probably be re- 
jected by the Senate was the alleged private conversa- 
tion between Mr. Thompson & Dr. Tate of which he 
(Mr. Walker) knew nothing, & not upon any contro- 
versy which Mr. Thompson had with him (Walker) . 
Mr. Walker said he thought on this avowed 
ground he would be rejected, and he could not there- 
fore recommend or advise his renomination. He 
then entered into a very solemn & earnest conversa- 
tion in relation to his position in the administration. 
He said he had some political enemies among the 
Democratic Senators. He intimated that they were 
apprehensive that he might desire to be a candidate 
for the Presidency as the cause of it. He disavowed 
any such desire or intention, and repeated to me what 
he had once before said to me on that subject, which 
was in substance that without his procurement or con- 
sent a few newspapers had mentioned his name in con- 
nection with the Presidency. He said he had thought 
seriously of publishing a letter disavowing any such 
intention, and strongly expressing his opinion that 
no member of the Cabinet could, without prejudice 
to the administration or impairing his own useful- 
ness, be regar[ded] as an aspirant to that high sta- 
tion. He said he would write such a letter at once 
if it were not that he might appear ridiculous by as- 
suming that he was looked to for that office, and that 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 17? 

if it became necessary hereafter he would do so. I 
told him I concurred with him that no member of 
the Cabinet could with propriety be a candidate for 
the Presidency, and that he knew I had made a con- 
dition that they should not be, in selecting my Cabi- 
net, having addressed letters and received letters 
from each member of the Cabinet to that effect, before 
their appointment. He then said he would [write] 
such a letter as he had indicated as soon as it be- 
came more manifest that it would be proper. He 
said he was the object of violent attack and, with 
much agitation & feeling, said he would retire from 
the Cabinet the moment I was of opinion that his 
remaining in it would embarrass the success of my 
administration. I told him that nothing had oc- 
curred as yet to make such a step necessary, that I 
had the same confidence in him that I had when I 
called him to take charge of the Treasury Depart- 
ment; and that I advised him to disregard these at- 
tacks upon him to which he had alluded, to go on & 
do his duty, and at such time as it became necessary, 
publish his letter disconnecting his name with the 
Presidential office. He retired. 

Attended the first Presbyterian church to-day in 
company with Mrs. Polk & my niece, Miss Rucker. 
Mr. Senator Haywood called shortly after we re- 
turned from church. He informed me that he had 
seen some of the Senators, since his interview with 
me on friday last, in reference to the withdrawal of 
Dr. Tate's nomination, some of them Whigs & others 
Democrats, and had explained to them how it hap- 
pened that the withdrawal had been made. He ad- 



178 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Jan. 

vised that I should on the next meeting of the Senate 
nominate a successor to Dr. Tate and communicate 
with the message the letter of the two Senators from 
Mississippi on which the withdrawal had been made, 
& state the fact that at the time it was made I had 
no knowledge of the pendency before the Senate in 
secret session of the resolution proposing a call on 
the Secretary of the Treasury for information, the 
copy of the Executive Journal not having at that 
time been communicated to me. He said that as the 
Senate would attend the funeral of the late Mr. Tay- 
lor of the Ho. Repts. on to-morrow, they would not 
sit to transact business, & that tuesday would be the 
earliest day I could make a communication to them. 

MONDAY, igth January, 1846. — Saw no company 
to-day. At 12 O'Clock repaired with my Cabinet 
to the Hall of the Ho. Repts. to attend the funeral 
ceremonies of the Hon. Mr. Taylor of Va., late a 
member of that House. The religious services were 
performed by the Chaplains of Congress. The Rev. 
Mr. Tustin preached the sermon from the text from 
the Book of Job, "The Lord gave; the Lord hath 
taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord." 
I attended the procession with my Cabinet to the 
Congressional burial ground, and returned to the 
President's Mansion between 2 & 3 O'Clock. 

Mr. Senator Haywood called about 5 O'Clock and 
returned to me the letter of the two Mississippi 
[Senators], advising me to withdraw the nomination 
of James H. Tate as Consul at Buenos Ayres, which 
I had handed to him on Sunday, the 18th Instant, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 179 

and which is recorded in this diary of the 15th In- 
stant. He stated that he had explained the transac- 
tion to several Senators since he had seen me, and 
that they were all satisfied that I had no knowledge 
of the Resolution pending before the Senate at the 
time I had withdrawn the nomination of Mr. Tate. 
He still inclined to the opinion that I had better 
nominate a successor to Dr. Tate, and in the same 
message communicate the letter of the Senators from 
Mississippi as the ground on which I had withdrawn 
his nomination. I told him I had reflected on the 
subject, and thought there was no way in which I 
could put myself right on the record and before the 
Senate but to renominate Dr. Tate, accompanied 
with the letter of the Senators from Mississippi upon 
which I had withdrawn his nomination, and thereby 
place the whole matter in the position in which it 
was before the withdrawal. Mr. Haywood still in- 
clined to think that I had better make a new nomina- 
tion accompanied with an explanatory message, and 
the letter of the Senators upon which the nomination 
had been withdrawn, but said he did not perceive 
any great objection to the course which I proposed. 

Shortly after Mr. Haywood left Mr. Senator 
Chalmers of Mississippi called. He said his col- 
league, Mr. Speight, was sick or he would have 
called also. He deeply regretted that Mr. Speight 
and himself had not informed me, at the time they 
advised the withdrawal of Dr. Tate's nomination, of 
the pendency of the Resolution before the Senate in 
Executive Session. I told him that I was placed 
upon the records of the Executive Journal of the 



i8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Jan. 

Senate in an awkward and false position; that as the 
record now stood it would leave the inference that I 
had withdrawn the nomination to screen my Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, or save him from the inquiry 
proposed of him by the Resolution pending before 
the Senate in Secret Session at the time, and of the 
pendency of which I had been wholly ignorant; 
which would be a false inference and do great in- 
justice both to the Secretary of the Treasury and my- 
self. I told him that I knew no way to correct this 
false inference but to renominate Dr. Tate accom- 
panied by a statement of the facts. He said that was 
precisely what he had intended to advise me to do, 
and added he wished me to send in with my mes- 
sage [the letter] which Mr. Speight and himself had 
addressed to me, advising me to withdraw the nomi- 
nation, because he said he wished the Senate to see 
what they had said in that letter. I told him I 
would probably do so on to-morrow. Mr. Chalmers 
said he censured himself for having remained so long 
silent about Dr. Tate, who was, as he said, a highly 
honorable and worthy man, and permitting Mr. 
Thompson to go [a] round among Senators and 
poison their minds against him. 

Mr. Senator Cass of Michigan called in shortly 
after Mr. Chalmers left, and held a conversation 
with me in relation to the news received to-day, of 
the dissolution of the English Ministry, 1 and its 
probable effects upon our relations with that Country. 

1 The Peel ministry fell because of its championship of the 
repeal of the Corn laws. In revenge for this the Protectionists 
joined the opposition on the Irish Arms Bill. This caused Peel's 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 181 

He expressed himself strongly in favor of vigorous 
preparations for defence, in which I concurred with 
him. 

Mr. Dallas, Vice President of the U. S., called 
and had a conversation on the English news received 
to-day. He concurred in the propriety of taking im- 
mediate measures for the defence of the country. 

TUESDAY, 20th January, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent, but [the] Attorney General retired early to at- 
tend the Supreme Court. 

I read to the Cabinet a message which I had pre- 
pared to the Senate, renominating James H. Tate as 
Consul at Buenos Ayres, in the following words, viz., 

" To the Senate of the United States. 

On the 15th of January, 1846, I withdrew the 
nomination of James H. Tate of Mississippi as Con- 
sul at Buenos Ayres. The withdrawal was made 
upon the receipt on that day of a letter addressed to 
me by the Senators from the State of Mississippi ad- 
vising it. I transmit their letter herewith to the 
Senate. At that time I had not been furnished with 
a copy of the Executive Journal of the Senate, and 
had no knowledge of the pendency of the Resolution 
before that body, in Executive Session, in relation 
to this nomination. Having since been furnished by 
the Secretary of the Senate with a copy of the Ex- 
ecutive Journal containing the Resolution referred 

downfall, but not, however, until he had concluded the settlement 
of the Oregon Boundary question. 



18a JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Jan. 

to, I deem it proper and due to the Senate to rein- 
state the nomination in the condition in which it 
was before it was withdrawn, and with that view I 
nominate James H. Tate of Mississippi to be Consul 
at Buenos Ayres. James K. Polk." 

Washington, January 20th, 1846. 

All the Cabinet concurred in the propriety of send- 
ing the message, and it was sent accordingly. The 
letter enclosed in the message was that recorded in 
this diary of the 15th Instant. 

Saw Senators Haywood & Cass, separately, in the 
evening, who informed me that the message was 
well received in Executive Session and was a clear 
vindication of any supposed impropriety on my part 
in withdrawing the nomination. 

WEDNESDAY, 2 1st January, 1846. — There was a 
severe storm last night & the day was inclement, but 
notwithstanding this there was the usual number of 
visitors, many of them seeking offices for themselves 
or their friends. Closed my doors at 12 O'Clock. 
At half past 12 O'Clock Mr. Healey, the artist sent 
to the U. States by the King of the French last year 
to take the likeness of Genl. Jackson & others, called 
by previous appointment to take my likeness for 
Justice Catron of the Supreme Court of the U. States. 
I gave him a sitting of two hours. 

Had a drawing room at 8 P. M. to-day. All the 
parlours, including the East Room, were brilliantly 
lighted. The night was very cold and the crowd 
was not very great, though all the rooms were filled, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 183 

not crowded. The evening past [passed] off pleas- 
antly. Many of the Foreign Representatives, mem- 
bers of Congress, citizens and strangers were present. 

THURSDAY, 22nd January, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. At half past 12 
O'Clock gave Mr. Plealey, the artist, who com- 
menced taking my portrait on yesterday, another sit- 
ting of two hours. Afterwards saw the Secretary of 
the Navy and transacted business with him. About 
5^4 O'Clock Mr. Shields, 1 the Commissioner of the 
General Land Office, called and informed me that 
he had seen Gen'l Cass of the Senate, who informed 
him that the Senate had rejected the nomination of 
Geo. W. Woodward as Associate Justice of the 
Supreme Court of the U. States. Judge Shields ad- 
vised the appointment of Mr. Buchanan, the Secre- 
tary of State, and said that Gen'l Cass advised the 
same thing. I had some conversation with Judge 
Shields on the subject, who among other things told 
me that he had conversed with Mr. Buchanan on 
yesterday, and that he knew he was anxious to have 
the appointment. I thought it strange that Mr. 
Buchanan should have expressed such a wish to any 
one pending the nomination of Mr. Woodward be- 
fore the Senate. I knew Mr. Buchanan had not 
been satisfied with Mr. Woodward's nomination, 
but supposed it was because he preferred Mr. John 
M. Read of Philadelphia. The information given 

1 James Shields, Commissioner of General Land Office 1845— 
1847, Brigadier-General in Mexican War, and also in the Union 
army in the Civil War. 



184 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Jan. 

me by Mr. Shields left the painful impression that 
Mr. Buchanan had been willing to see my nomina- 
tion of Mr. Woodward rejected by the Senate, in 
order to obtain the office himself. This I hope is 
a mistaken impression. Of one thing, however, I 
am satisfied, and that is, that if Mr. Buchanan did 
not interfere with Mr. Cameron, Mr. Sevier, 1 & 
others of the Senate to have Mr. Woodward rejected, 
he at least took no interest in his confirmation, and 
was willing to see him rejected. The circumstances 
attending the nomination of Mr. Woodward are re- 
corded in this diary of December last. 

After Mr. Shields had held this conversation, I 
received the Executive Journal of the Senate, from 
which it appears that the entire Whig party and six 
Democratic Senators voted against Mr. Woodward's 
confirmation. The six Democratic Senators are Mr. 
Cameron of Pen[n]., Mr. Benton of Mo., Mr. Sevier 
and Mr. Ashley 2 of Arkansas, and Mr. Yulee 3 & 
Mr. Wescott of Florida. 

The Vice President, Mr. Senator Dickinson 4 of 

1 Ambrose H. Sevier, 1 802-1 848, Senator from Arkansas 1836- 
1848; appointed by Polk in 1848 Commissioner to Mexico with 
rank of Minister Plenipotentiary to conclude peace negotiations. 

2 Chester Ashley, 1 790-1 848, Senator from Arkansas 1844- 
1848. 

3 David Levy Yulee, 1811-1886; he was of Hebrew descent 
and adopted the name Yulee about 1845 in place of the name 
Levy by which he had been known hitherto ; Senator from Florida 
1845-1851, and 1855-1861, retiring to join the Confederate 
cause. 

4 Daniel S. Dickinson, 1 800-1 866, elected to the Senate in 
1844, prominent in the development of the Squatter Sovereignty 
doctrine. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 185 

N. Y., and Mr. Senator Allen of Ohio called about 
8 O'Clock, and expressed their indignation at the 
rejection of Mr. Woodward. They gave me an ac- 
count of what had occurred in Executive Session of 
the Senate. They informed me that every frivolous 
objection which had been at first urged against him 
had been fully refuted, and expressed their strong 
conviction that he ought to have been confirmed. 
They concurred with me in opinion that he was 
eminently qualified, of irreproachable character, and 
a sound republican in his constitutional opinions. 
Mr. Cameron was the active member of the Senate 
in procuring his rejection. Mr. Woodward was 
the nominee of the Democratic caucus of the Penn- 
sylvania Legislature last year for the Senate of the 
U. States and was defeated by Mr. Cameron, who 
received the united [Whig] vote & a faction con- 
sisting of a small minority of the Democratic mem- 
bers. By a similar combination Mr. Woodward's 
nomination as Judge of the Supreme Court has been 
defeated. Of the six [Democratic] Senators who 
voted against him, Mr. Cameron, Mr. Sevier, and 
Mr. Wescott are the intimate friends of Mr. Bu- 
chanan, the latter of whom (Mr. Wescott) judging 
of his course since he has been in the Senate, I con- 
sider, though elected as a democrat, to be a Whig 
in disguise. There can be no doubt that Mr. Bu- 
chanan could, if he had desired it, have prevented 
either of these Senators, and probably Mr. Benton 
also, from voting against him. Mr. Senator Allen 
told me this evening that immediately after the re- 
jection of Mr. Woodward, it was rumoured in the 



186 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Jan. 

Senate that Mr. Buchanan would be appointed. I 
conclude to make no nomination for the present, nor 
until I have time to investigate the circumstances 
and causes of Mr. Woodward's rejection more fully. 
At present I consider the course of the 6 Democratic 
Senators factious & without adequate reason. 

FRIDAY, 23rd January, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock. As the Senate did not sit to- 
day I saw several Senators after that hour. Among 
others Mr. Speight of Mississippi called, and spoke 
very indignantly and strongly of the course of the 
six democratic Senators who had united with the 
Whig Senators on yesterday, and rejected the nomi- 
nation of Mr. Woodward as Judge of the Supreme 
Court. I said nothing, except to give general & 
evasive answers. He expressed the confident opin- 
ion that Mr. Buchanan had controlled, if not directly 
at all events indirectly, the votes of Mr. Sevier, 
Cameron, & Wescott, and this without the slightest 
intimation indicating such a suspicion on my part. 
He said he boarded near Mr. Sevier and Mr. 
Thompson of Mississippi, and that they were very 
intimate with Mr. Buchanan, and visited him at 
least three times a week, and to use his own words, 
he said Sevier & Thompson almost lived at Bu- 
chanan's, and with an oath he expressed the opinion 
that Sevier, if Mr. Buchanan had given him the 
slightest intimation, would have voted as he desired. 
To all this I replied that I hoped he was mistaken. 
I told him, as I had told other Senators, Mr. Allen, 
Mr. Dickinson of N. Y., and others, that Mr. Cam- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 187 

eron and others who had rejected Mr. Woodward, 
should not be gratified in having the man they might 
desire nominated in Mr. Woodward's place; that I 
had the right of nomination under the constitution, 
and the Senate had the right to reject; and that I 
would take my own time and make my own selection 
before I made another nomination, & that I would 
select some sound Republican, of the Jeffersonian 
faith in politics and Constitutional law. Mr. 
Speight told me that Mr. Sevier had said to him, 
pending the nomination of Mr. Woodward, that 
Gen'l Jackson could make appointments over the 
heads and against the will of his Cabinet, but with 
an oath, he would teach me that I could not. This 
probably had reference to Mr. Buchanan's opposi- 
tion to Mr. Woodward, which had probably been 
communicated to Mr. Sevier. I think this the most 
probable inference, though I have no positive 
knowledge that it is correct. One thing I remark, 
that if I was certain that Mr. Buchanan had advised 
the rejection of Mr. Woodward, or caused it to be 
done, I would regard it as such bad faith to me by 
a member of my Cabinet, that I would instantly dis- 
miss him. For the present I will await further de- 
velopments. Mr. Senator Turney of Tennessee 
called to see me & desired me, if I could with pro- 
priety, to give some office to Gen'l Clements of 
Fayetteville, Tennessee. After conversing about 
this and one or two minor appointments, he intro- 
duced the case of Mr. Woodward's nomination and 
his rejection by the Senate, and expressed himself 
strongly in condemnation of the six Democratic 



i88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Jan. 

Senators, who had united with the Whigs and re- 
jected him, & particularly so against Mr. Cameron, 
who, he said, ought to be exposed. Mr. Turney's 
conversation on the subject was very strong towards 
Gen'l Cameron, in whom he had no confidence as a 
democrat, and [he] intimated in pretty direct terms 
that he was at heart a Whig. Mr. Turney's visit was 
a pleasant one, and from all he said he appeared to 
be ardent and zealous in support of my administra- 
tion. When he was about to leave, I said to him 
that I would be pleased to see him whenever he 
could call, or had anything which he desired to com- 
municate to me. He seemed to be pleased, and said 
he would do so, as he would have done in old times. 

Mr. Senator Niles 1 of Con[n]. also called on 
business, and after transacting it, expressed himself 
in strong terms against the conduct of those demo- 
cratic Senators, who had joined the Whigs in re- 
jecting Mr. Woodward. Mr. N. spoke in high 
terms of Mr. Woodward, and said all grounds of 
objection to him had been met, and been finally 
abandoned; that the Whigs had voted against him 
because of his opposition to corporations and his or- 
thodox republican principles, but it was difficult to 
find a satisfactory reason why Democrats should join 
them in rejecting him. 

I received to-day a letter from Col. Benton, who 
voted against Mr. Woodward, requesting me to nom- 
inate Mr. Buchanan in his place, saying that he (Mr. 
B.) had long desired the place, and that if nominated 

^ohn Milton Niles, 1787-1856, Senator from Connecticut 
1835-1839, and 1843-1849; Postmaster General 1840-1841. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 189 

the Senate would at once confirm the nomination. 
This letter of Col. B. I have placed on my files. 

Had a dinner party to-day consisting of between 
30 & 40 members of Congress. There were no ladies 
present except Mrs. Polk. 

This evening Mr. Buchanan gave a Ball at Ca- 
rusi's saloon. Col. Walker and Miss Rucker & Miss 
Walker attended it; Mrs. Polk declined. 

SATURDAY, 24th January, 1846. — This morning 
about ()Y 2 O'Clock Mr. Senator Pennybacker 1 & 
Mr. Brown of Va. called to see me on the subject 
of the Post Master at Wheeling, Va. They recom- 
mended Mr. Newman of Wheeling, now a State 
Senator from the Wheeling District, to take effect 
on the 1 st of April next, on which day the resigna- 
tion of the present incumbent will take effect. Mr. 
Brown retired & Mr. Pennybacker remained. He 
expressed himself, as other Senators had before done, 
in terms of strong indignation at the rejection of 
Mr. Woodward as Judge of the Supreme Court by 
the Senate. 

I learned from my private Secretary, Col. Walker, 
and from others to-day that it was the common talk 
at Mr. Buchanan's Ball last night that he (Mr. B.) 
was to go on the Bench of the Supreme Court, in 
place of Mr. Woodward rejected. I learned, too, 
that there is another rumour in the streets that Mr. 
Buchanan will soon leave the Cabinet. These 
rumours are strange to me. I have reason to believe 

1 Isaac Samuels Pennybacker, 1 807-1 847, Senator from Vir- 
ginia 1 845-1 847, dying in office. 



190 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Jan. 

that Mr. Buchanan is dissatisfied, but if so he has no 
reason for it unless it be that I make my own ap- 
pointments to office, according to my best judgment, 
and will not suffer him to dispense the public 
patronage, especially in Pennsylvania. In my ap- 
pointments in that State, as well as elsewhere, I have 
known no clique or section of the Democratic party, 
but have endeavored to select qualified persons and 
to do justice to all the local divisions of the Demo- 
cratic party. I have refused to gratify Mr. Bu- 
chanan but [by] bestowing all the offices in Penn- 
sylvania on his peculiar partisans, to the exclusion 
of all others, as it is manifest he has on many occa- 
sions desired me to do. I have done Mr. B. full 
justice, and have given to his peculiar friends even 
more than their proportion of the offices, because he 
was a member of my Cabinet & I was desirous to 
satisfy him by giving him evidence that I had 
friendly feelings towards him. With this I fear he 
is not satisfied. His greatest weakness is his great 
sensitiveness about appointments to office. He has 
repeatedly seemed to be troubled, & taken it greatly 
to heart when I have differed with him about ap- 
pointments & made my own selections. Being re- 
sponsible for my appointments, I cannot surrender 
the appointing power to any one else, and if, be- 
cause I will not do so, Mr. B. chooses to retire from 
my Cabinet I shall not regret it. I have heard of 
his talking and complaining to others of my self- 
will in making my appointments. His opposition 
to my nomination of Mr. Woodward was, I under- 
stand, a matter publicly known in the streets. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 191 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting to-day; all 
the members present. Despatches which were re- 
ceived from Mr. Slidell, our Minister at Mexico, 
last night were read, and the answer to be given 
was discussed & agreed on. 

I brought the present state of the Oregon question 
again before the Cabinet. I suggested for consid- 
eration, the possibility of some new basis of adjust- 
ment. I stated that there was no probability that 
any division of the territory could be agreed upon, 
or would be acceded to by the people of the U. S., 
& that we had rejected the offer of arbitration which 
had been recently made by the Brittish Minister. I 
then suggested as a possible basis of adjustment a 
Treaty of commerce by which each country should 
stipulate to relax their restrictive systems; by which 
Brittish duties on American Breadstuff's, rice, cot- 
ton, tobacco, & other articles exported to Great 
Brittain should be reduced to a moderate revenue 
standard; and that like reductions should be made 
by the U. S. on Brittish manufactures imported into 
the U. S. I stated the reduction of our tariff would 
be a great object with Great Brittain, and that to 
attain it that Government might be willing to sur- 
render her claim to the whole Oregon territory, on 
receiving a round sum to enable her to indemnify 
her Hudson's Bay Company for the valuable im- 
provements which they had made in Oregon. I 
stated that I did not know this was feasible, but it 
would relieve Great Brittain of the point of Honor 
in the controversy, and that possibly she might 
acceed to it, because she esteemed her commerce 



i92 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Jan. 

with the U. S. as of infinitely more value than she 
did the Oregon territory. Of course if such an ad- 
justment could be made, it must first receive the 
ratification of the Senate, and then the approval of 
Congress, who must pass a law revising our tariff 
of duties accordingly, and making the necessary ap- 
propriations to carry it into effect. I stated that I 
had [not] matured or fully considered the subject, 
but merely suggested it for deliberation between this 
time and the next meeting of the Cabinet. 

After the other members of the Cabinet retired 
Mr. Marcy, the Secretary of War, asked me if Mr. 
Buchanan had any agency in causing Mr. Wood- 
ward's rejection by the Senate. I told him I had 
no knowledge that he had taken any affirmative 
action to cause such a result, but that I had no 
doubt that an intimation from him to his friends in 
the Senate who voted against him, such as Cameron, 
Wescott, Sevier would have prevented his rejection. 
That he had done nothing to prevent his rejection, 
I was satisfied. 

SUNDAY, 25th January, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, Mar- 
shall T. Polk. After church Gen'l Cass called to 
ascertain what the Foreign news was, brought by the 
last Steamer from England. 

About 7 O'Clock my messenger informed me 
that Mr. Buchanan and Judge and Mrs. Catron 
were in the parlour below stairs. I went down & 
found Mrs. Polk with them. Mr. Buchanan re- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 193 

mained a short time and retired. After Judge and 
Mrs. Catron retired, Mrs. Polk remarked to me 
that she thought she observed that Mr. Buchanan's 
& my meeting was cold and formal. I told her I 
was not conscious of it on my part. 

MONDAY, 26th January, 1846. — Mr. Buchanan 
came over about 9 O'Clock with the Foreign de- 
spatches brought by the last steamer from Europe. 
He read those from England and France, and after 
some conversation on the subject he retired. 

I saw company after he left until 12 O'Clock. 
Mr. Bancroft called to read to me a private letter 
which he had received from Dr. Holland of Lon- 
don on the subject of Oregon. 

Gave Mr. Healey, the portrait painter, another 
sitting of two hours to-day, though I could but illy 
spare the time. I think it is the last sitting for my 
portrait which I will submit to during a Session of 
Congress. 

Mr. Buchanan sent to me from the Department 
of State, a commercial Treaty received by the last 
Steamer, between the U. S. & the King of the two 
Sicilies, signed at Naples on the 1st December, 1845, 
by Wm. H. Polk, 1 U. S. charge d'affaires. Mr. 
Buchanan accompanied the Treaty with a note ap- 
proving it. 

At 7 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Alex. Everett, 2 U. S. 

1 Brother of the President. Charge d'affaires to the Two 
Sicilies March 13, 1845, to August 31, 1847, when he resigned 
to accept an appointment in the army for service in Mexico. 

2 For Everett's commission and a brief biography, see Moore, 
Buchanan, VI, 139. 



194 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Jan. 

Commissioner to China, called, and I held a con- 
versation with him in reference to his mission, and 
intimated to him that it was desirable that he should 
proceed as soon as his health would permit. He 
said he thought he would be able to set out on his 
voyage in April. 

Mr. Senator Allen [and] Mr. Senator Sevier 
called on business. 

Judge Mason, the Attorney Gen'l, called at about 
9 O'Clock. He said he called at the request of Mr. 
Buchanan, who was troubled at his position because 
of the events which had transpired in reference to 
the nomination and rejection of Mr. Woodward as 
Judge of the Supreme Court of the U. S. Judge 
Mason said that Mr. Buchanan protested that he 
had not interfered to have Mr. Woodward rejected, 
but had said to him, in conversation on Saturday 
last, that if he had been consulted at the time Mr. 
Woodward was nominated to the Senate that he 
would have been confirmed. I was particular to 
have Judge Mason repeat this statement that I might 
not misunderstand it. Mr. Mason said that Mr. 
Buchanan desired him to request me to appoint him 
to the vacant seat on the Bench, for which I had 
nominated Mr. Woodward. I replied that Mr. 
Woodward had been rejected by the votes of Mr. 
Buchanan's special friends in the Senate (at least 
some of them were so) who had joined with the 
United Whig party to effect his rejection, and that 
Mr. Buchanan's statement to him that he could have 
procured his confirmation was what I had before 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 195 

believed. I stated that five-sixths of the Democratic 
Senators had voted to confirm him, and that six pro- 
fessed democrats, some of them the confidential and 
intimate friends of Mr. Buchanan, had chosen to 
unite with the whole Whig party in the Senate, and 
had rejected him, and that, though the Senate had 
a perfect right to reject any of my nominations, I 
could not approve the conduct of any member of 
my Cabinet in conniving at such rejection. I stated 
to Judge Mason that under the circumstances of 
Mr. Woodward's rejection, I considered it a blow 
struck at my administration. I informed [him] 
also that several of the Democratic Senators who 
had voted for Mr. Woodward's confirmation had 
called on me and expressed deep indignation at the 
course of the 6 Democratic Senators who had caused 
his rejection ; and that from what some of them had 
told me, I had no doubt they attributed the rejection 
to Mr. Buchanan's influence with Cameron, Sevier, 
Wescott, & perhaps others. Judge Mason then re- 
marked to me that Mr. Senator Chalmers of Miss, 
had told him a day or two ago that if Mr. Buchanan 
was nominated to the Senate he would vote against 
his confirmation. I told Judge Mason that I would 
make no nomination of Judge for the present, and 
that Mr. Buchanan had brought all his troubles on 
himself; that I would take my own time, and receive 
further developments before I made another nom- 
ination. I told him [from] all I had learned the 
same six Democratic Senators, or a faction of them 
who had voted against Mr. Woodward had formed 



iq6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Jan. 

a combination with the Whigs to reject Mr. Horn 
as Collector of Phil'a, and other of my nominations, 
and that I would wait & see what their course would 
be. I told him if they did so I would know that 
Mr. Buchanan countenanced it. I told him I was 
unexcited but intended to be firm, and that if I 
found that any member of my Cabinet gave coun- 
tenance to a factious minority of the Democratic 
Senators to unite with the Whigs in making war on 
my administration by rejecting my nominations, he 
would find me a lion in his path, and that I would 
not submit to it, whatever the consequences might be. 
Judge Mason said that among other rumours which 
he had heard in the streets, one was that if Mr. 
Buchanan was placed on the Bench, he (Judge 
Mason) was to be appointed Secretary of State. He 
said he mentioned [it] to say that he preferred his 
present position of Attorney General to any other 
in my Cabinet. He asked me what he should say 
to Mr. Buchanan in reference to his application to 
be appointed Judge. I repeated to him that I could 
make no appointment at present; and that I desired 
that Mr. B. would go on quietly in the discharge 
of his duties as Secretary of State, but that I could 
give no assurances whom I would appoint Judge. 
In the course of my conversation, Mr. Buchanan's 
course in this matter & his great sensitiveness about 
appointments was freely spoken of. I told Mr. 
Mason that this was Mr. B's great weakness and 
error; that I was President & responsible for my 
appointments, & could not delegate the appointing 
power to him. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 197 

TUESDAY, 27th January, 1846. — This being Cab- 
inet day I saw no company. Mr. Bancroft was the 
first of the Cabinet who attended. He at once in- 
formed me that he had been greatly astonished a day 
or two before by Mr. Buchanan, who told him he 
was a solicitor to me for the office of Judge of the 
Supreme Court of the U. S. He had scarcely given 
me this information, when Mr. Marcy came in & 
Mr. Bancroft repeated what he had told me. They 
were both surprised at it, and disapproved it. I told 
them I would make no appointment for the present, 
which they both approved. We continued to talk 
on the subject, and of the excitement of several Dem- 
ocratic Senators at Mr. Woodward's rejection by the 
Senate, when Mr. Buchanan entered my office & the 
conversation ceased. Mr. Buchanan seemed at first 
to be embarrassed, but soon assumed a more cheerful 
air and I thought made an effort to make himself 
agreeable. 

All the Cabinet were present except Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, who sent a note that 
he was detained by indisposition, and Mr. Mason, 
Attorney Gen'l, who was attending the Supreme 
Court of the U. States. Our relations with Mexico 
& Great Brittain were subjects of conversation. 
Mr. Buchanan read a despatch which he had pre- 
pared to Mr. Slidell in Mexico. The character of 
a despatch to Mr. McLane at London was agreed 
on. The commercial Treaty negotiated by Wm. H. 
Polk with the King of the Two Sicilies was con- 
sidered and approved, and it was agreed that it 
should be communicated to the Senate for their rat- 



i98 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Jan. 

ification. After disposing of some minor matters, 
the Cabinet retired. 

Had a dinner party this evening, consisting of be- 
tween 30 & 40 members of Congress & visitors & 
the ladies of their families. Mr. James Craighead 
and Mr. McGavock, both of Nashville, were of the 
company. 

WEDNESDAY, 28th January, 1846. — Had an un- 
usual crowd of visitors to-day, some of them on visits 
of ceremony, some asking alms and donations for 
churches, and many of them most ravenous for office. 
I directed my doors to be closed at 12 O'Clock, but 
could not get clear of my kind visitors until near 2 
O'Clock P. M. 

Mr. Buchanan came in and read a despatch to 
Mr. Slidell, the U. S. Minister to Mexico. Some 
alterations were made in it by my direction. 

Mr. Mason, the Attorney General, called & in- 
formed me that he had communicated to Mr. Bu- 
chanan my refusal to appoint him to the vacant seat 
on the Bench of the Supreme Court of the U. S., 
but as I was much engaged he did not detail the 
particulars of his conversation with him. 

Mr. Wilmot, a member of the House of Repre- 
sentatives from Pennsylvania, informed me today 
that his colleague, Mr. Garvin, 1 of the House had 
informed him that he had called on [at] the lodg- 
ings of Mr. Cameron, Senator from Pennsylvania, 
on Sunday last, and that Mr. Cameron had informed 

1 William S. Garvin, Representative from Pennsylvania 1845- 
1847. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 199 

him that Mr. Buchanan would accept the vacant 
Judgeship. Mr. Wilmot said that Mr. Garvin in- 
formed him that Gen'l Cameron on that occasion in 
speaking of my nomination of Mr. Woodward and 
his rejection by the Senate, [said] that Mr. Wescott, 
one [of] the Senators from Florida, had remarked, 
and applied the remark to me and my course in 
nominating Mr. Woodward, that " the only way to 
treat an ugly Negro who was unruly, was to give 
him a d — n drubbing at the start, and he would learn 
to behave himself." The drubbing given to me, 
according to the low and vulgar language of Mr. 
Wescott, was the rejection of Mr. Woodward by 
himself & 5 other professed democrats, united with 
the whole Whig vote in the Senate. Mr. Garvin, 
as Mr. Wilmot said, informed him that he was in- 
dignant at the remark, and that while the conver- 
sation was going on between himself and Cameron, 
Mr. Wescott, who boarded at the same house with 
Cameron, came into the room, and Cameron re- 
peated to him what he had informed Garvin, and 
that he, Garvin, seemed to take it seriously. Mr. 
Wescott admitted that he had made the remark & 
repeated it. I cannot express my contempt for a 
Senator who could be capable of such coarseness and 
vulgarity. This Mr. Wescott, too, was elected as a 
Democrat by the Democratic Legislature of Florida. 
While Mr. Wilmot was in my office, where he re- 
lated to me the foregoing conversation as communi- 
cated to him by Mr. Garvin, Mr. Cameron came in 
and introduced a friend. He put on a smiling & 
hypocritical [air], and acted as though he had been 



200 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Jan. 



one of my friends. I of course treated him civilly 
in my own office, but I felt great contempt for 
him. 

Mr. Wilmot had no hesitation in avowing his 
opinion that Mr. Buchanan had controlled both 
Cameron and Wescott, and had been the cause of 
Mr. Woodward's rejection. He asked me if the 
rumour which was current in the City was true, that 
Mr. Buchanan was to be appointed to the Bench of 
the Supreme Court. I told him it was not; that I 
would take my own time to select a judge, and when 
I did so he should be my own choice. I told the 
same thing in answer to a similar question to Mr. 
Senator Sturgeon 1 of Pennsylvania, who expressed 
his gratification that such was my determination. 

Mr. Wilmot told me in the course of his conver- 
sation that Mr. Piatt, who is the special friend of 
Mr. Buchanan, had in conversation with him 
spoken very harshly of me for nominating Mr. 
Woodward, contrary to Mr. Buchanan's wishes. 

It was communicated to me this evening that the 
rumour in the City was that Mr. Buchanan was about 
to resign his seat in the Cabinet. Should he tender 
his resignation, unless he shall make satisfactory ex- 
planations I will accept it and will not regret it. 
Many other rumours concerning the affair have 
reached my ears to-day. The whole difficulty has 
been produced by Mr. Buchanan himself, because 
he cannot control my appointments. He accepted 
his place in my Cabinet under the written pledge, 

1 Daniel Sturgeon, 1789-1878, Senator from Pennsylvania 
1839-1851, 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 201 

as did all the members of my Cabinet, that during 
his continuance in it he would not become a can- 
didate for the Presidency, and yet it is manifest that 
he desired to control my patronage with that view. 
I have not permitted this, and have made my own 
appointments without reference to the succession. I 
have done Mr. Buchanan full justice, but with this 
he is not satisfied. I cannot, to gratify him, proscribe 
good democrats who do not happen to be his peculiar 
friends or favourites. I am no candidate for re- 
election, and will, as far as I know it, do justice to 
all sections of the Democratic party, without refer- 
ence to their preferences or partialities for me. 

Mr. Ritchie & Cave Johnson called to-night to 
learn the truth or falsehood of the rumours about 
Mr. Buchanan, which were circulated in the City. 
They were not in the office at the same time. I 
told them the facts, &, in answer to a question pro- 
pounded, each of them said I was right in not ap- 
pointing [him] to the Bench. 

I told Mr. Sturgeon to-day that I would consult 
him before I made another nomination of Judge, 
and he thanked me. Mr. Sturgeon is an honest man, 
has acted well in this whole matter, and I have great 
confidence in him. 

Mr. Buchanan will find that I cannot be forced 
to act against my convictions, and that if he chooses 
to retire I will find no difficulty in administering 
the Government without his aid. What is under the 
circumstances most remarkable, is that Mr. Bu- 
chanan, when on business in my office to-day, sug- 
gested that Dr. Joel B. Sutherland would be a fit 



202 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Jan. 

person to be appointed to a station in the mint at 
Phila., soon to become vacant by the resignation of 
Dr. McClintock, the melter & coiner. This struck 
me as strange, as Mr. Buchanan had urged me last 
year to remove Dr. Sutherland as Naval Officer at 
Phila. and upon his recommendation & that of 
others I did so. 

THURSDAY, 2Qth January, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock. In the course of 
the morning I received the annexed note l from the 
Hon. Mr. Wilmot of the Ho. Repts., explanatory 
of the facts which he related to me on yesterday, and 
which are recorded in this diary of that day. 

"Dear Sir; 

I called this morning and also last evening, for 
the purpose of correcting an error into which I had 
fallen in my conversation with you yesterday morn- 
ing. I had, it appears, misunderstood Mr. Garvin. 
He did not understand that Mr. Wescott had made 
use of the language touching the treatment proper 
for obstinate negroes in connection with Mr. Wood- 
ward's rejection, or in any sense disrespectful to 
yourself; but merely as illustrating the negro char- 
acter. Mr. Cameron quoted this remark of Wes- 
cott's in connection with the subject of Woodward's 
rejection, and in such a way as to show that he 
thought that kind of discipline good for Presidents. 
Mr. Garvin took exception to such language in its 

1 Wilmot's original letter has been pasted in the Diary at this 
place, apparently by President Polk himself. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 203 

being applied to you, and when Wescott came in 
Cameron says to him, ' I have been telling your 
mode of dealing with obstinate negroes, and Garvin 
dislikes my application of it to the President.' 

I have been very anxious to correct this error 
arising from my misunderstanding of Mr. Garvin, 
as in the way I narrated it to you, great injustice 
was done Mr. Wescott; but owing to your engage- 
ments at the hours of my calling, have been unable 
to see you, & therefore have adopted this method. 
Very Respectfully 

Your Ob't SerVt. 

D. Wilmot. 
His Excellency the President 
Jan'y 29, 1846." 

It appears from this note that the offensive re- 
mark, as applied to me, is to be attributed to Mr. 
Senator Cameron. Mr. Wescott it seems made the 
remark as to the treatment proper for the negro, and 
Mr. Cameron applied it to me in the case of the 
nomination of Mr. Woodward. It does not appear 
in what connection Mr. Wescott made the remark, 
but it does appear that when Cameron repeated it to 
him as applicable to me he did not disavow the ap- 
plication. I consider both therefore as guilty of 
gross rudeness & vulgarity. 

FRIDAY, JOth January, 1 846. — Saw company until 
12 O'Clock to-day. Senators Allen, Jarnigan, & 
Niles called after 12 O'Clock, but I made my 
apology to them that I was engaged & they remained 



2o 4 JAMES K. POLJC'S DIARY [31 Jan. 

but a short time. Gave another sitting of two hours 
today to Mr. Healey, the artist, who is taking my 
portrait. 

Had a dining party today consisting of about 40 
members of Congress and the ladies of their families. 
Saw Mr. Senator Semple of Illinois on business 
after dinner. 

SATURDAY, Jlst January, 1846. — Before the Cab- 
inet met this morning Gen'l Cass called and held a 
conversation with me in reference to our foreign 
relations and other public subjects. Among other 
things he adverted to the reference made in debate 
in the Senate by Mr. John M. Clayton * of Dela- 
ware, one day this week, perhaps on Wednesday last, 
to my speech 2 on the Panama Mission in 1826, to 
show that my opinion then differed from that ex- 
pressed in my Message, in reference to Foreign in- 
terference or colonization on the American Conti- 
nent. Gen'l Cass stated the fact to me that Mr. 
Calhoun of S. C. had informed him that he had 
searched up my speech in 1826 and furnished it to 
Mr. Clayton. Mr. Cass mentioned [this] to show 
that Mr. Calhoun was disposed to attack the ad- 

1 John M. Clayton, 1 796-1856, Senator from Delaware 1829- 
1836, 1845-1849, and 1853— 1856 ; Secretary of State under Tay- 
lor, 1 849-1 850. 

2 On April 1 1, 1826, in connection with the debate on the Pan- 
ama Mission, one of John Quincy Adams' measures, Polk in- 
troduced a series of resolutions in defence of the right of the 
House to influence treaties by means of its control over appropria- 
tions. On April 21 he delivered a speech on the subject. Cong. 
Debates, 19 Cong. 1 Sess. II, Part II, 2166, and ibid, 2472. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 205 

ministration, but preferred at present to have it done 
by Mr. Clayton, who was a professed opposition 
Senator. I think myself it would have been more 
open and manly for Mr. Calhoun to have used the 
speech himself in debate, if he desired it to be used 
to show an apparent inconsistency on my part. But 
there is no inconsistency between the speech of 1826 
and the message of 1845. The subjects treated of 
at the two periods were of an entirely different char- 
acter. My speech in 1826 was against forming " en- 
tangling alliances " with other nations. My mes- 
sage asserted the great principle that we would 
permit no Foreign colonization or interference on 
the North American continent, and that the nations 
of this continent would regulate their own destiny. 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting to-day; all 
the members present except the Attorney Gen'l. 
The propriety of forming a commercial Treaty with 
the King of Hanover, and several other public sub- 
jects were considered. 

After night Senator Semple called and held a 
conversation with me in relation to the intended 
emigration of the Mormons of Illinois to Oregon. 
I had examined Gov. Ford's letter on the subject, 
which he had delivered to me on the 30th Instant, 
& which I have placed on file, and informed him 
that as President of the U. S. I possessed no power 
to prevent or check their emigration; that the right 
of emigration or expatriation was one which any 
citizen possessed. I told him I could not interfere 
with them on the ground of their religious faith, 
however absurd it might be considered to be; that 



206 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Feb. 

if I could interfere with the Mormons, I could with 
the Baptists, or any other religious sect; & that by the 
constitution any citizen had a right to adopt his own 
religious faith. In these views Mr. Semple con- 
curred with me. After Mr. Semple left Mr. Sen- 
ator Breese * of Illinois called and had a conversa- 
tion on business. 

Judge Catron and his lady called and spent an 
hour in the parlour. 

SUNDAY, 1st February, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, & Mrs. Judge Catron 
of Tennessee. 

Monday, 2nd February, 1 846. — Saw a large 
number of visitors to-day, male and female, some to 
pay their respects and others on business and seeking 
office. Among others Gen'l Cass called and enquired 
of me if I cared anything about the confirmation by 
the Senate of Gov. Morton 2 as Collector at Boston, 
remarking that he might vote against him on account 
of his abolition tendencies. I told him he was no 
abolitionist, and asked him if he had seen a letter 
written by Gov. Morton to Mr. Bancroft denying 
the charge, which letter had, I understood, been 
placed by Mr. Bancroft in the hands of Mr. Hay- 
wood of N. C, Chairman of the Committee of Com- 

1 Sidney Breese, Senator from Illinois 1 843-1 849. 

2 Marcus Morton, 1 784-1 864, Governor of Massachusetts 
1 840-1 841, and 1 843-1 844, Collector of Customs at Boston 
1 845-1 849. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 207 

merce of the Senate. He said he had not seen it. 
I told him Mr. Morton was a good officer; that he 
had been Governor of Massachusetts, and twenty 
years a Judge of that State; and that the rejection 
of my prominent nominations by the Senate at the 
opening of my administration was calculated to 
weaken my administration before the country, and 
destroy my power to carry out any of my recom- 
mendations of measures before Congress. I told 
[him] the Senate of course had a right to reject any 
of my nominations, and I would not complain; but 
if they were good men & qualified, and were re- 
jected by a few democrats uniting with the whole 
Whig party, he could well see the embarrassment 
to all the measures of my administration which it 
would produce. 

I gave Mr. Healey, the artist, who is painting my 
portrait, another sitting of two hours today. 

After night the Vice President of the U. S. & Hon. 
Charles A. Wickliffe 1 of Ky. called. I had a long 
conversation with Mr. Wickliffe about Texas affairs. 

TUESDAY, 3rd February, 1846. — Held a regular 
Cabinet meeting today; all the members present ex- 
cept the Attorney General. Mr. Buchanan read the 
draft which he had prepared of an answer to Mr. 
Pakenham's second proposal 2 to refer the Oregon 
question to arbitration. All concurred in the con- 
Charles A. Wickliffe, 1 788-1 869, Governor of Kentucky 
1 839-1 841 ; Postmaster General under Tyler, 1 841-1845 ; sent by 
Polk on a secret mission to the Republic of Texas in 1845. 
2 Pakenham's proposal was made January 16, 1846; Buchanan's 



208 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Feb. 

elusion that the offer to refer to arbitration should 
be rejected. Parts of the paper were discussed at 
considerable length, but no definitive action was had. 
The answer which should be made to the two 
Resolutions, one of the Senate and the other of the 
House, calling for information on the Oregon ques- 
tion, was also considered; but both subjects were 
postponed until to-morrow morning at 9 O'Clock, 
when it was agreed that a special meeting of the 
Cabinet should be held and that the Atto. Gen'l 
should be notified to attend. 

WEDNESDAY, 4th February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
met this morning at 9 O'Clock, as was agreed on on 
yesterday, all the members present. The considera- 
tion of the answer to Mr. Pakenham's second offer to 
refer the Oregon question to arbitration was resumed. 
Several changes of Mr. Buchanan's original draft 
were made, after discussion, by my direction. The 
first was to insert as one of the reasons for declining 
the proposition, the intrinsic difficulty of selecting 
a suitable arbitrator; the second was to strike out a 
paragraph which declared in substance that the 
President did not doubt that [the] Brittish Govern- 
ment were as serious in the belief that they were 
entitled to a part of Oregon as the U. S. were in 
the conviction that they were entitled to the whole 
territory; the third was to strike out a paragraph 
which declared in substance, as one of the reasons 
for declining arbitration, that if the President were 

reply was given February 4, 1846. Moore, Buchanan, VI, 357 
and 370. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 209 

to agree to it a Treaty to that effect would not prob- 
ably meet the sanction of the Senate ; the fourth was 
to strike out a paragraph at the close of the paper 
expressing the opinion in substance that the question 
could be better adjusted by direct negotiation be- 
tween the parties than by arbitration; these several 
amendments, with some others which were either 
verbal or of minor importance, were made by my 
direction. Mr. Buchanan took the original draft and 
retired with it to my Private Secretary's room and 
made the amendments as directed. He returned 
and read it over again as corrected, and in that form 
it was unanimously agreed that it should be com- 
municated to Mr. Pakenham this day. 

The answer which should be made to the Resolu- 
tions of the Senate and the House calling for any 
correspondence which had taken place on the Ore- 
gon question since the date of the Annual Message, 
and which in the opinion of the President could be 
communicated without prejudice to the public inter- 
est, was next considered. All except the Secretary 
of the Treasury were of opinion that all the corre- 
spondence which had taken place between Mr. 
Pakenham and Mr. Buchanan on the subject of ar- 
bitration should be communicated. Upon the ques- 
tion whether that portion of the correspondence be- 
tween Mr. Buchanan and Mr. McLane, the U. S. 
Minister at London, which related to the military 
and naval preparations in England, including an 
official conversation between Mr. McLane and Lord 
Aberdeen as to the object of these preparations, and 
also McLane's opinion on this point, should also be 



2io JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Feb. 

communicated, there was a difference of opinion. 
Mr. Buchanan thought parts of this correspondence 
ought to be communicated. All the other members 
of the Cabinet, except perhaps the Post Master Gen- 
eral, who was silent, differed with him in opinion. 
The Attorney General gave his views at some length. 
The Secretary of the Navy did so also. The Secre- 
tary of the Treasury adhered to his opinion that the 
communication of any portion of the correspondence, 
either at Washington or London, would have a bad 
effect on the action of Congress on the pending ques- 
tion of notice to abrogate the convention of 1827. 
My first impression was in favour of sending in the 
correspondence with Mr. McLane, as insisted on by 
Mr. Buchanan, and I had in conversation with Mr. 
Buchanan intimated that opinion. I was brought, 
however, by the discussion which took place, to en- 
tertain serious doubts of the correctness of my first 
impressions. I expressed these doubts, and finally 
decided with a majority of the Cabinet not to com- 
municate to Congress the correspondence with Mr. 
McLane, but to send in that relating to arbitration 
between Mr. Pakenham and Mr. Buchanan. The 
Cabinet adjourned with this understanding. 

The President's Mansion was open for the recep- 
tion of visitors in the evening, it having been previ- 
ously announced that they [it] would be so. The 
company commenced assembling about 8 O'Clock, 
and a very great crowd were present. Foreign Min- 
isters, the members of the Cabinet, members of Con- 
gress, Judges of the Supreme Court, citizens, & 
strangers were present. The East room & all the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 211 

parlours and halls were crowded with ladies and 
gentlemen. About 11 O'Clock the company retired, 
no act of disorder or impropriety having occurred. 

THURSDAY, 5/A February, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock to-day as usual. Shortly after that 
hour Gen'l Cass, with whom Mr. Buchanan had con- 
versed on the subject, called and strongly urged that 
it was due to Congress & the American people that 
the correspondence with Mr. McLane on the sub- 
ject of the Military and Naval preparations in Eng- 
land should be communicated to Congress. In the 
course of the day he addressed me a note on the same 
subject, which I have placed on file among the letters 
which I preserve. 

Gave Mr. Healey, the artist, who is taking my 
portrait, another sitting of 2]/ 2 hours to-day. It was 
very inconvenient to me to lose the time, and I think 
I am resolved not to sit again for any artist during a 
Session of Congress. Mr. Senator Turney called 
after night & held a very friendly conversation, and 
seemed to be ardent in support of my administration. 

FRIDAY, 6th February, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock. Among others who called 
after that hour was Senator Yulee, & held a conver- 
sation on various public subjects, and among others 
[on] his own course on Mr. Woodward's nomination 
as Judge, and other nominations. He said he had 
voted against Mr. Woodward because of a letter 
about the tariff which he had written, and because 
he was not a free-trade man, and said he would ad- 



212 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Feb. 

vise that I should appoint none other than free-trade 
men to office in the North, & by that means make 
them feel the necessity of reducing the tariff. I 
thought this was very weak, though I did not say so 
to him. I told him that judge Woodward was 
sounder on that subject and on all the great consti- 
tutional questions than any man who was qualified 
for Judge whom I knew in that Circuit. I told him 
mine was the power of nomination, & the Senate's 
of confirmation or rejection, and that I had no right 
to complain of or find fault with their action, and 
that I did not do so; but that he must perceive that 
by rejecting my principal nominations, especially 
when they were pure, honest, and qualified men, he 
was weakening the power of my administration to 
carry out the great measures, reduction of the tariff 
and others, which he professed to approve. He said 
in the course of the conversation that if Mr. 
Buchanan was nominated he would vote against him, 
for the same reason that he had voted against Mr. 
Woodward. 

I saw Mr. Buchanan to-day, and told him that 
after much reflection I had changed my opinion in 
reference to the propriety of sending into Congress, 
in answer to their Resolutions, the correspondence 
with Mr. McLane relating to the Military and 
Naval preparations in England. He said he was 
very clear that it ought to be sent in. I then told 
him to have the copies of the correspondence pre- 
pared, and I would bring the subject again before 
the Cabinet, at their regular meeting on to-morrow. 

The young ladies of my household & some other 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 213 

young persons, having obtained Mrs. Polk's assent, 
had arranged it that Herr Alexander, the juggler or 
performer of tricks of slight of hand, should visit the 
President's Mansion and exhibit before a select com- 
pany. They mentioned it at dinner to-day at 4 
O'Clock P. M. About 8 O'Clock P. M. I was in 
my office with Mr. Senator Allen, when Mr. Ban- 
croft and Mrs. Judge Catron came to my office and 
said they were deputed by the company in the par- 
lour below to come up & bring me down. I went 
down, & found some forty or fifty ladies & gentle- 
men, before whom Mr. Alexander exhibited his art 
greatly to their wonder and amusement, but as I 
think not much to their edification or profit. It was, 
however, innocent in itself, but I thought the time 
unprofitably spent. I, however, was thinking more 
about the Oregon & other public questions which 
bear on my mind that [than] the tricks of the jug- 
gler, and perhaps on that account the majority of the 
company might think my opinions entitled to but lit- 
tle weight. 

SATURDAY, yth February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. I informed them that I had reflected much, 
since the special meeting of the Cabinet on Wednes- 
day, in relation to the propriety of withholding from 
Congress the correspondence with Mr. McLane in 
relation to the Military & Naval preparations mak- 
ing in England ; that I had on Wednesday some doubts 
on the subject, and had therefore acquiesced in the 
opinion expressed by a majority of the Cabinet, but 



2i 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Feb. 

that my subsequent reflection had satisfied me that 
the correspondence ought to be sent in to Congress. 
I told them that by sending [it] in I should dis- 
charge my duty, and not subject myself to the charge 
of having improperly withheld it. The subject was 
again discussed. Mr. Bancroft intimated that his 
opinion was unchanged. Mr. Buchanan was clear 
and decided that it ought to be sent in. It being de- 
cided by me that a part of the correspondence should 
be communicated, it was carefully read over & the 
parts to be communicated agreed on. The copies 
which Mr. Buchanan had had prepared in pursuance 
of my directions to him on yesterday were compared 
with the original. I prepared a short message to 
the House of Representatives (the Senate having ad- 
journed over on thursday last to Monday next) and 
my Private Secretary left about i 1 /* O'Clock P. M. 
with the message and documents & delivered them to 
the House. 

SUNDAY, 8th February, 1 846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my two nieces, Miss Rucker and Miss 
Walker. 

MONDAY, Qth February, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock as usual. At 1 O'Clock I gave 
Mr. Healey, the artist, who is painting my portrait, 
another sitting. He finished the painting and I am 
heartily rejoiced at it. 

Among others who called to-day was Mr. Senator 
Turney of Tennessee. Mr. T. manifests every dis- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 215 

position to be friendly & to give to my administration 
a zealous support. 

TUESDAY, I Oth February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
met to-day; all the members present except the At- 
torney General, who was understood to be attending 
to official duty in the Supreme Court of the U. States. 
Recent despatches received from Mexico and Brazil 
were read and considered. Various other matters 
of minor importance were also considered. 

This evening Martin, my porter, delivered to me 
a sealed letter which, on breaking the seal, was found 
to be from Henry H. Gilbert, dated at New Hart- 
ford, Feb'y 6th, 1846, which he stated was delivered 
to-day while the Cabinet were in session by the Hon. 
John Quincy Adams, who informed the porter that 
he was requested to hand it to me in person. Mr. 
Adams, as the porter informed me, drove to my door, 
but did not get out of his carriage. The letter con- 
tains nothing remarkable [except] the fact, [which 
I regard] as a singular one, that it was brought by 
Mr. Adams in person. I have made an endorsement 
on the letter, and placed it on my files of letters to 
be preserved. 

Wednesday, nth February, 1846. — Saw com- 
pany as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Mr. Cam- 
eron of the Senate remained in my office after the 
balance of the company had retired. He said he 
wished to have a conversation with me. I told him 
I would hear him. He commenced by professing 
friendship for the administration. He said he had 



2i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Feb. 

opposed the nomination of George W. Woodward as 
Judge of the Supreme Court of the U. S. and went 
on to assign his reasons, which were unsatisfactory 
though I did not deem it to be necessary to tell him 
so; indeed I did not think they were the real reasons. 
I told him that mine was the power of nomination & 
the Senate's of confirmation or rejection; and when 
the Senate chose to reject any of my nominations it 
was their constitutional right to do so, and I had no 
right to complain, especially if it was done for good 
reasons or proper motives and not factiously. I told 
him I was satisfied that Mr. Woodward was the best 
appointment I could have made in Pennsylvania; 
that the Senate had rejected him and now I would 
take my own time in selecting a judge. I reminded 
him of the conversation he had with me before Mr. 
Woodward was nominated, in which the names of all 
the persons presented for the Judgeship had been 
mentioned; that I had told him I had considerable 
difficulty on the subject, and that he had replied, 
" Well, make a nomination and we will support it." 
He admitted that he had said so, but as I had spoken 
of Mr. Woodward in the past tense, viz., "that I 
had thought of him," that his impression was that I 
was not then looking to him, and with that impres- 
sion he had made the remark. I told him as he had 
sought the conversation I would talk frankly to him. 
He said he desired that I should. I then told him 
that the public understood that there was a Demo- 
cratic majority of six in the Senate, and that the ef- 
fect of rejecting my principle nominations at the 
commencement of my administration, and especially 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 217 

as the Senate sat with closed doors & the public could 
not know the reason of the rejection, was calculated 
to weaken my administration, and destroy or impair 
my power and influence in carrying out the influence 
[influential measures] of my administration. The 
truth is Mr. Woodward's rejection was factious, 
Mr. Cameron and five other professed democrats 
having united with the whole Whig party to effect 
[it]. And now those by whose votes he was rejected 
refuse, as the Executive Journal proves, to remove 
the injunction of secrecy, so that the public may 
know by whose votes he was rejected. I told Mr. 
Cameron that since the rejection it had been com- 
municated to me that a coarse and vulgar remark had 
been made and applied to me, in reference to his 
nomination, by a professed democrat, at which I had 
felt indignant, and that remark was, applying it to 
me for having nominated Judge Woodward, in sub- 
stance; that the way to treat an ugly or stubborn 
negro when you first got him, was to give him a 
d — nd drubbing at the start and he would learn how 
to behave himself. He immediately denied that he 
had used such language, although I had not said 
that he was the person who had used such language. 
He showed in his manner some confusion. I told 
him that the first use of these vulgar terms had not 
been attributed to him; but that afterwards they had 
been familiarly repeated among members of Con- 
gress and others as applied to me. I told him I had 
done nothing to merit such epithets of reproach; that 
I had exercised my constitutional power in making 
the nomination of Judge Woodward, and the Sen- 



218 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Feb. 

ate had a right to reject him, but that no man had a 
right to use such terms. In the after part of the 
conversation on this point, with a countenance and 
manner still confused and embarrassed he admitted 
that such language had been used, but did not say 
by whom, but denied that it had been applied to me. 
That it was applied to me, I refer to the statement 
made to me by the Hon. Mr. Wilmot of Pennsyl- 
vania, a member of the House of Repts., some days 
ago, and recorded in this diary, and also to the note 
of Mr. Wilmot to me, which I attached to the state- 
ment in this diary, Vol. 3. 1 

Mr. Cameron next spoke of my nomination of Mr. 
Horn as collector at Philadelphia and of his opposi- 
tion to him. I told him I had long known Mr. 
Horn ; that he was honest & capable and made a good 
officer; that I had done my duty to the country in 
nominating him, that there was no good reason for 
rejecting him, but that the Senate could do as they 
chose. He admitted that Mr. Horn was honest and 
qualified, but said he was opposed [to] him, &c. He 
assigned not a single reason why he should not be 
confirmed by the Senate. Believing, and indeed 
knowing beyond all doubt, that Mr. Cameron's real 
objection to Mr. Horn's [nomination] was that he 
did not belong to his particular clique in Pennsyl- 
vania, I concluded to give him a brief statement of 
the circumstances under which he had been ap- 
pointed. I told Mr. Cameron that I knew he was 
the special friend of Mr. Buchanan, and that he sup- 
posed Mr. Horn was unfriendly to Mr. Buchanan 

1 See Diary entry for January 29, 1846. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 219 

politically. I told him that early after I came into 
office that Mr. Buchanan had requested me not to 
appoint Mr. Horn collector, assigning as a reason 
that he did not consider him his friend, and that Mr. 
Buchanan being a member of my cabinet, and de- 
siring to make no appointment, and especially in 
Pennsylvania, which he could consider as unkind 
or unfriendly to him, I had promptly yielded to Mr. 
Buchanan's request & told him I would not appoint 
him if he desired that I should not; but told him at 
the same time that I thought well of Mr. Horn; that 
I had been associated with him in Congress, that he 
was an unswerving democrat, a uniform and ardent 
supporter of Gen'l Jackson, that the Gen'l took 
great interest in his appointment, and that I would 
like to appoint him, if it had been agreeable to him. 
I told Mr. Cameron that the matter stood in this 
way until some weeks afterwards when the Philadel- 
phia appointments were about to be made, when 
great difficulty was found to exist in deciding be- 
tween the conflicting claims of different applicants; 
that in endeavoring from the best lights before me to 
fill the different offices with good men, and at the 
same [time] to produce harmony in the party, I had 
many consultations with Mr. Buchanan and had pre- 
sented to him the names of three gentlemen of high 
character and standing, either of whom I was willing 
to appoint; and that Mr. Buchanan was not satisfied 
with either of them. The matter was postponed, 
and in a day or two after I had presented these three 
names to Mr. Buchanan he called at my office, and 
in a pleasant way, and voluntarily and without my 



220 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Feb. 

request, he said to me, I see your difficulties, and I 
have come to yield with a good grace my objections 
to the appointment of Mr. Horn; I know you want 
to appoint him, and I have no objection; that I told 
Mr. Buchanan I was rejoiced to hear it, that it would 
give me pleasure to appoint Mr. Horn, and I knew 
it would be highly gratifying to our good old friend 
Gen'l Jackson, and now that objection to him was 
withdrawn I would appoint him. When I had 
made this statement Mr. Cameron said Mr. Bu- 
chanan had not treated him well not to have com- 
municated these facts to him; & he (Buchanan) had 
never made a greater mistake in his life than when 
he had yielded to Mr. Horn's appointment. I told 
Mr. Cameron that in the other appointments at 
Phil'a, viz., Mr. Welsh, the Naval Officer; Gen'l 
Davis, the Surveyor; Mr. Patterson, the Navy 
Agent; & Dr. Lehman, the P. M., Mr. Buchanan 
had been gratified; that in the appointment of U. S. 
Attorney a bitter contest had grown up between the 
friends of Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Dallas, between 
Mr. Brewster and Mr. Philips who were candidates 
for that office, and to settle it I had determined to 
appoint Judge Pettit who was friendly to both and 
stood indifferently between them. Mr. Cameron 
spoke disparagingly of all these appointments ex- 
cept that of Mr. Welsh, and thought Mr. Buchanan 
had made a mistake in favoring their appointments. 
He added, too, that Mr. Buchanan had had Mr. Bid- 
lack 1 appointed charge d'affaires abroad when he 

1 Benjamin A. Bidlack, charge d'affaires to Colombia 1845- 
1849. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 221 

would have been satisfied with an $800 clerkship. I 
told him it was true Mr. Buchanan had urged his ap- 
pointment, and I had yielded to it. 

Mr. Cameron repeated his determination to sup- 
port the administration & said Mr. Horn had it in 
his power by a kind word to have opposition to his 
confirmation by the Senate withdrawn. He said he 
was going to Phil r a on to-morrow, & if Mr. Horn 
would call on him in a friendly way and give him an 
excuse, he would not continue his opposition to his 
confirmation; and he said that Mr. Horn might be 
written to by some friend here to do so. Mr. Cam- 
eron then left. I certainly shall not write to Mr. 
Horn but leave Mr. Cameron to take his own course. 
I have not the slightest confidence in Mr. Cameron's 
professions of friendship for my administration. He 
and others, however, find that I have been firm and 
decided in relation to the Judgeship, and that after 
Woodward's rejection I have refused to nominate the 
man they wish nominated, and they are now, no 
doubt, satisfied that if Mr. Horn should be rejected 
in the same way that Mr. Woodward was, by a union 
of half a dozen Democrats with the whole Whig 
party, I would probably make my own selection to 
fill his place, in which they are right, and they have 
become alarmed for their own safety. They un- 
doubtedly fear to make an open issue with me before 
the people of Pennsylvania, and this is the explana- 
tion of Mr. Cameron's visit to me to-day. 

THURSDAY, 1 2th February, 1846. — Saw company 
to-day as usual until 12 O'Clock. Attended to the 



222 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Feb. 

business on my table until 2 O'Clock P. M. after 
which I sat an hour for Mr. Chapman, 1 an artist, 
who at the instance of the Secretary of War is taking 
my likeness for the purpose of having medals pre- 
pared to be presented to the various Indian tribes. 

Mr. Mason, the Atto. General, called and in- 
formed me that Mr. Buchanan had informed him a 
day or two ago that a Mr. Saunderson (whom I do 
not know) had been to Washington, and on his re- 
turn to Harrisburg had stated that I had said to Mr. 
Wilmot of the Ho. Repts. that I would not appoint 
Mr. Buchanan Judge of the Supreme Court of the 
U. S. I told Mr. Mason that it was a mistake, that 
I had not made such a declaration; but that I had, 
since Mr. Woodward's rejection, kept myself wholly 
uncommitted as to the person whom I would or 
would not appoint; and that I intended to wait for 
further developments as to the course of the small 
faction of the Democratic party in the Senate who 
had chosen to call the undivided Whig party in to 
their aid in the rejection of Mr. Woodward. Mr. 
Mason spoke of the nomination of Mr. Horn as col- 
lector at Phil'a & repeated a conversation he had 
held with Mr. Buchanan on that subject. I told him 
I wished to see how this faction of Democratic Sen- 
ators intended to act on that and other nominations, 
before I would make another nomination for Judge. 

FRIDAY, 13th February, 1 846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock. Among others who called 

1 John Gadsby Chapman, 1 808-1 889. He painted the "Bap- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 223 

was Col. Atocha, who called on me in June last. He 
is a Spaniard by birth but says he has become a nat- 
uralized citizen of the U. States. He has lived at 
New Orleans and spent many years in Mexico. He 
was with Santa Anna 1 when his Government was 
overthrown last year; was himself arrested, but it 
being made known that he was a naturalized citizen 
of the U. S. he was ordered out of the country. He 
called on me in June last to present claims 2 which 

tism of Pocahontas " which hangs in the rotunda of the Capitol at 
Washington. 

1 Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was overthrown as President 
of Mexico by the revolution of December, 1844. He sought 
refuge in Havana, but returned to Mexico in August, 1846, his 
return being facilitated by the Polk administration in the hope 
that when he should become possessed of political power he might 
yield more readily than the existing government of Mexico to 
the demands of the United States. On regaining control, how- 
ever, he disappointed this expectation by adopting a policy of 
vigorous opposition to our demands and armies. His defeat in 
the war led to his being discredited a second time and to his 
retirement from the country in April, 1848. 

2 Atocha was ordered out of Mexico February 26, 1845, because 
of his supposed political connection with Santa Anna, whose gov- 
ernment had been overthrown by the recent revolution. Atocha 
protested against the order and at the close of the war, as a citizen 
of the United States, filed a claim for damages before the com- 
mission appointed under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to pass 
upon the claims of citizens of the United States against Mexico. 
The commission rejected the claim, and Atocha several times 
petitioned Congress to reverse its decision and pay his claim, the 
last time in 1864. On each occasion the Congressional com- 
mittee, convinced of the injustice of his expulsion from Mexico 
and of the validity of his claim against the United States for 
redress, reported favorably upon it. 



224 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Feb. 

he had against the Government of Mexico, with a 
view to have their payment urged by the Govern- 
ment of the U. S. 

Col. Atocha stated this morning that since he saw 
me in June last he had visited Gen'l Santa Anna in 
his exile at Havannah, and that he had left him a 
month ago. His conversation with me, he said he 
desired to be confidential. He represented that 
Santa Anna was in constant communication with his 
friends in Mexico, and received by every vessel that 
left Vera Cruz hundreds of letters. He intimated 
that the recent Revolution headed by Paredes met 
Santa Anna's sanction, and that Santa Anna might 
soon be in power again in Mexico. He said that 
Santa Anna was in favour of a Treaty with the U. S., 
and that in adjusting a boundary between the two 
countries the Del Norte should be the Western 
Texas line, and the Colorado of the West down 
through the Bay of San Francisco to the Sea should 
be the Mexican line on the North, and that Mexico 
should cede all East and North of these natural 
boundaries to the U. S. for a pecuniary consideration, 
and mentioned thirty millions of Dollars as the sum. 
This sum he said Santa Anna believed would pay the 
most pressing debts of Mexico, support the army un- 
til the condition of the finances could be improved, 
and enable the Government to be placed on a per- 
manent footing. Col. Atocha said that Santa Anna 
was surprised that the U. S. Naval force had been 
withdrawn from Vera Cruz last fall, and that Gen'l 
Taylor's army was kept at Corpus Christi instead 
of being stationed on the Del Norte; and that the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 225 

U. S. would never be able to treat with Mexico, 
without the presence of an imposing force by land 
and sea, and this, Col. Atocha added, was his own 
opinion. Col. Atocha did not say that he was sent 
by Santa Anna to hold this conversation with me; 
but I think it probable he was so. He said he had 
told Santa Anna he had seen me in June, and that he 
would see me again as soon as he reached Washing- 
ton. Col. Atocha requested that this conversation 
should be considered as confidential. He said he 
had much more to communicate, but company being 
in waiting in the Anti-chamber he retired, saying he 
would call again in a few days. 

Gave Mr. Chapman, the artist, who is taking my 
likeness for an Indian medal, another sitting of 1^4 
hours to-day. 

Mr. Buchanan called, and said, contrary to his 
rule, he was urged by Mr. Flenniken [?] of Union- 
town, Pennsylvania, to see me about an office. He 
read a letter to himself from Mr. Flenniken. I 
told him I had been and was desirous to bestow some 
office on Mr. Flenniken, and was disposed to do so 
as soon as an opportunity offered and I could do 
so with propriety. I note the fact of Mr. Bu- 
chanan's call because it is the first on the subject of 
office which he has made since the rejection by the 
Senate of Mr. Woodward's nomination as Judge of 
the Supreme Court of the U. S. Since that time Mr. 
Buchanan has never called except on official busi- 
ness, and has been entirely formal in his intercourse 
with me. His manner indicates that he has been in a 
dissatisfied mood. 



226 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Feb. 

Gave a Dinner party to-day to about 40 persons. 
Among the guests were Mrs. Gen'l Alexander Ham- 
ilton, 1 now in her 88th year, & George Washington 
Park Custis, who is the relative of Mrs. Gen'l Wash- 
ington. The balance of the party consisted of the 
Secretaries of the Treasury, War, & Navy and their 
families; of Judges Catron & Woodbury of the Su- 
preme Court & their families; of members of 
Congress and citizens. Mrs. Gen'l. Hamilton, upon 
whom I waited at table, is a very remarkable person. 
[S]he retains her intellect & memory perfectly, and 
my conversation with her was highly interesting. 

SATURDAY, 14th February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. I related to the Cabinet the substance of Col. 
Atocha's conversation on yesterday. Different mem- 
bers of the Cabinet expressed opinions concerning it. 
The idea of sending a confidential agent to confer 
with Santa Anna was mentioned. Mr. Walker was 
inclined to favour it, & Mr. Buchanan was decidedly 
opposed to it. I remarked that if such an agent were 
to be sent, Gov. C. P. Van Ness, former Minister to 
Spain, would be the best selection in the country. I 
stated that I did not propose to send such a messen- 
ger, but had merely suggested it in view of the infor- 
mation given me on yesterday by Col. Atocha. The 
subject after a short conversation was dropped. No 

1 Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, daughter of General Philip 
Schuyler, 1757-1854. She married Alexander Hamilton in 1780, 
outliving him half a century. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 227 

business of importance was transacted & the Cabinet 
dispersed at an earlier hour than usual. 

Had a small dinner party to-day, consisting of my 
old college associates & friends, Walker Anderson 
of Florida, Mr. Senator Haywood, & Mr. Jno. Y. 
Mason, Attorney Gen'l. Mr. Dromgoole of Va. 
was invited but did not attend. Mr. Haywood's 
daughter & niece, Miss Moseley; Gov. Dudley & 
Daughter; Mr. Henry Ewing of Phil'a & daughter; 
Mr. Aiken of Nashville; & Mr. Arnold Harris were 
also of the party. 

SUNDAY, 15th February, 1 846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day, in company with 
Mrs. Polk and my niece, Miss Walker. 

MONDAY, 16th February, 1 846. — Saw company 
to-day until 12 O'Clock. An unusual number of 
persons called. Among others Col. A. J. Atocha, 
the Spanish gentleman who held a conversation with 
me on the 13th Instant, called at an early hour. I 
gave him an audience of near an hour, when my 
messenger announced that many persons were in 
waiting in the Anti-chamber. He had not concluded 
his conversation, when I told him I would see him 
at zy 2 O'Clock P. M. to-day. After 12 O'Clock I 
gave to Mr. Chapman a sitting of an hour, who com- 
pleted the likeness he was taking for Indian Medals. 

At precisely 2>4 O'Clock P. P. [M.] Col. Atocha 
called, when I gave him a further audience of more 
than an hour. He had a long conversation with me 



228 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Feb. 

about the present condition of Mexico, and the re- 
lations of the U. States with that Government. He 
repeated that he had left Gen'l Santa Anna at 
Havanna about a month ago; & repeated also the 
conversation he had with him as stated in this diary 
of the 13th Instant. He repeated that Gen'l Santa 
Anna was in favour of a Treaty between Mexico and 
the U. States by which the former should, for a pe- 
cuniary consideration, cede to the U. States all the 
country east of the Del Norte & North of the Col- 
orado of the West, and had named thirty millions of 
dollars as the sum that would be satisfactory. I 
then remarked that Mexico must satisfy the claims 
of American citizens, and that if the Government of 
Mexico had any proposition to make, such as was 
suggested, it would be considered when made; to 
which Col. Atocha said no Government or adminis- 
tration in Mexico dared to make such a proposition, 
for if they did so there would be another revolution 
by which they would be overthrown. He said they 
must appear to be forced to agree to such a proposi- 
tion. He went on to give his own opinion and, as he 
said, that of Gen'l Santa Anna, that the U. States 
should take strong measures before any settlement 
could be effected. He said our army should be 
marched at once from Corpus Christi to the Del 
Norte, and a strong Naval force assembled at Vera 
Cruz, that Mr. Slidell, the U. S. Minister, should 
withdraw from Jalappa, and go on board one of our 
ships of War at Vera Cruz, and in that position 
should demand the payment of [the] amount due our 
citizens; that it was well known the Mexican Gov- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 229 

ernment was unable to pay in money, and that when 
they saw a strong force ready to strike on their coasts 
and border, they would, he had no doubt, feel their 
danger and agree to the boundary suggested. He 
said that Paredes, Almonte, & Gen'l Santa Anna were 
all willing for such an arrangement, but that they 
dare not make it until it was made apparent to the 
Archbishop of Mexico & the people generally that it 
was necessary to save their country from a war with 
the U. States. He said the last words which Gen'l 
Santa Anna said to him when he was leaving Ha- 
vanna a month ago was, " when you see the Pres- 
ident, tell him to take strong measures, and such a 
Treaty can be made & I will sustain it." Col. 
Atocha said the Government of Mexico was in- 
debted to the Archbishop half a million of dollars, 
and he would be reconciled by an assurance by the 
Mexican Government that he should be paid, when 
the consideration should be paid by the U. States. 
He said Paredes and Almonte were both in favour of 
such a settlement if they dare make it, and that Gen'l 
Santa Anna concurring with them would support 
them in it. He said Gen'l Santa Anna [said] that 
the state of things could be in such a condition that 
he could return to Mexico in April or May, and 
would probably go into power again, but that he & 
Paredes must have money to sustain themselves. He 
said that with half a million in hand they could 
make the Treaty and sustain themselves for a few 
months, and until the balance was paid. He said 
that Arista l was friendly to the U. States and in 

1 Mariano Arista, commander of the Mexican forces in the 



2 3 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Feb. 

favour of annexation of the Northern Departments 
to the U. States, and therefore he would favour the 
arrangement. He said Arista owned a large plan- 
tation near Monterey and felt anxious for annex- 
ation. He (Col. Atocha) intimated an intention to 
return to Havanna &, as I inferred, [had] a desire 
to bear to Gen'l Santa Anna the views of the Gov- 
ernment here. To this intimation I gave no reply, 
my object in the conversation being to obtain infor- 
mation, but not to disclose my own views. Col. 
Atocha is [a] person to whom I would not give my 
confidence. He is evidently a man of talents and 
education, but his whole manner & conversation im- 
pressed me with a belief that he was not reliable, 
and that he would betray any confidence reposed in 
him, when it was his interest to do so. I therefore 
heard all he said but communicated nothing to him. 
He wished me to see Mr. Branch Mars [Brantz 
Mayer] ! of Baltimore, formerly secretary of lega- 
tion to Mexico, with whom he said he was intimate, 
and who could, he said, give me much information 
on the subject of Mexican affairs. He concluded by 
remarking that our difficulties with Mexico never 
could be settled until we exhibited a strong force on 
her borders, and showed her that we were determined 
to demand and to have our rights. 

Mr. Buchanan called at my office & submitted to 

battles of Palo Alto and Reseca de la Palma, May 8 and 9, 1846; 
President of Mexico 1850-1853. 

1 Brantz Mayer of Baltimore, Secretary of Legation to Mexico 
1841-1843, one of the founders of the Maryland Historical So- 
ciety and author of several books on Mexico. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 231 

me a note from the Prussian Minister dated in Jan- 
uary last, proposing to extend the commercial Treaty 
of 1828 between the U. S. & Prussia, so as to embrace 
the States of the Zolverin [Zollverein]. I told Mr. 
Buchanan that I saw no objections to such a Treaty, 
in which he concurred in opinion with me. 

After night to-day I had several visitors; among 
them Senators Bagby, Atchison, & Sevier. Mr. 
Bagby held a conversation with me on the subject of 
Oregon, & Mr. Atchison concerning some appoint- 
ments in the West. Mr. Sevier said he desired to 
hold a conversation in reference to himself. He said 
Gov. Yell 1 had informed him that he had held a 
conversation with me some days ago in relation to the 
Mexican Mission. He said that last spring the sub- 
ject had been mentioned at table at his boarding 
House, in presence of Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Thomp- 
son of Miss., & Mr. Foster of Pennsylvania, with 
whom he boarded, in which Mr. Buchanan & the 
other gentlemen had expressed a desire that he 
should be Minister to Mexico. He said he never 
afterwards spoke to Mr. Buchanan on the subject, 
but that the other gentlemen had, and that he at that 
time had no doubt Mr. Buchanan was friendly to 
him & desired his appointment. I told him Gov. 
Yell had spoken to me of him in connection with the 
Mission some days ago, and that I had told Gov. 
Yell that Mr. Slidell's nomination had been strongly 

1 Archibald Yell, 1 797-1 847, Governor of Arkansas 1 840-1 844, 
Representative from Arkansas 1 845-1 846; he became Colonel of 
the Arkansas Volunteer cavalry in the war and was killed in the 
battle of Buena Vista. 



232 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 Feb. 

recommended and urged upon me by Mr. Buchanan; 
that Mr. Buchanan had requested me, before Mr. 
Slidell left Washington last Spring, to permit him 
to communicate to Mr. Slidell that such was my in- 
tention if Diplomatic relations should be resumed 
with Mexico, and that I had declined at that time to 
give him such authority; that During the summer 
Mr. Buchanan had repeatedly spoken of Mr. Slidell 
as the best qualified man in the country for that mis- 
sion, because among other reasons of his knowl- 
edge of the Spanish language. I told Mr. Sevier 
that his name had not, to my recollection, been 
brought forward in connection with the Mission. 
Mr. Sevier said he cared nothing about it, but inti- 
mated pretty distinctly that he had reason to believe 
that Mr. Buchanan was in his favour & would have 
urged his claims. He was, I thought, not well sat- 
isfied with Mr. [B.'s] course, for he said he would 
not have blamed Mr. Buchanan, if he had preferred 
Mr. Slidell; but it was clear that he had been under 
a wrong impression as to Mr. Buchanan's preference. 
The truth is, I have no doubt, that Mr. S. had been 
labouring under the impression, until he held the 
conversation with Gov. Yell, that Mr. Buchanan had 
desired his appointment, and that I had disregarded 
his wishes and appointed Mr. Slidell. I told him I 
had very little personal acquaintance with Mr. 
Slidell, never having seen him until I came to Wash- 
ington in Feb'y, 1845, and that I had appointed him 
on Mr. Buchanan's recommendation. I told him 
that I was surprised when Gov. Yell had mentioned 
the subject to me some days ago, & that I had frankly 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 233 

told the Governor the circumstances under which 
Mr. Slidell was appointed. I told him that it was 
due to the good understanding which had existed 
between us for so many years that he should under- 
stand the matter, & that I was glad he had introduced 
the subject. He expressed a like gratification, and 
retired apparently satisfied. 

TUESDAY, iyth February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the attorney General, who was understood 
to be in attendance on the Supreme Court of the U. 
States. I related to the Cabinet the conversation 
held on yesterday with Col. Atocha. A conversa- 
tion in relation to it took place. I expressed the 
opinion that it would be necessary to take strong 
measures towards Mexico before our difficulties with 
that Government could be settled; and I proposed 
that in addition to Mr. Slidell's present instructions, 
he should be further instructed to demand an early 
decision of the Mexican Government, whether they 
would receive him as Minister or not; and, if they 
received him, whether they would without unreason- 
able delay pay the amount due to American claim- 
ants ; and that if that Government refused to do one 
or both, that he should leave the country, but in- 
stead of returning immediately to the U. States as 
he had been instructed to do, he should go on board 
one of our Vessels of War at Vera Cruz, and there 
remain until he had further instructions from his 
Government. 

I stated that in that event I would send a strong 



234 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Feb. 

message to Congress calling on that body to author- 
ize me to cause another demand to be made by Mr. 
Slidell, from on board the vessel of war, on the Mex- 
ican Government to pay our demands, and if this 
was refused by Mexico, to confer authority on the 
Executive to take redress into our own hands by ag- 
gressive measures. Mr. Buchanan objected to this 
course and thought Mr. Slidell, in the event he left 
the country, ought to return to the U. States instead 
of remaining on board of one of our vessels of War. 
An animated conversation took place between Mr. 
Buchanan and myself on the subject. The Secretary 
of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, & [the] Sec- 
retary of the Navy expressed opinions agreeing with 
me. The Post Master General inclined to a dif- 
ferent opinion, but was willing to acquiesce. It 
was understood that Mr. Buchanan was to prepare 
the instructions accordingly. Mr. Buchanan was 
manifestly in a bad mood, as he has been since Judge 
Woodward's nomination to the Bench of the Su- 
preme Court of the U. S., and since he has dis- 
covered that he can not control me in the dispensation 
of the public patronage. For several weeks past he 
has not been pleasant in his intercourse with me; has 
not heartily co-operated with me, but has been dis- 
posed to differ with me, as I think unnecessarily. 
He is, I am told, deeply mortified that I refused 
to appoint him Judge of the Supreme Court of the 
U. States, after Mr. Woodward's rejection by the 
Senate. I suspect he is seeking some public ground 
to break with my administration. He knows he can- 
not be sustained by public opinion if he leaves the 



i8 4 6J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 235 

Cabinet because I make my own appointments to 
office, and am not governed by his wishes when I 
differ with him in opinion. He knows also that it 
will not do for him to leave the Cabinet because I 
would not appoint him Judge of the Supreme Court 
when he applied to me for that office, after his 
friends, Cameron, Wescott, & others had united with 
the Whigs in the Senate & rejected Judge Wood- 
ward. I will be careful to give him no other ground 
of complaint. He may differ with me in opinion 
on public questions, and when he does, having my- 
self to bear the responsibility, I will control. As 
long as he will carry out my policy and act faithfully 
I am willing he shall remain in the office of Secre- 
tary of State ; when he ceases to do so, he must cease 
to occupy that position. His melancholy and dis- 
satisfied manner and conversation is already embar- 
rassing to the public interest, and is becoming 
exceedingly disagreeable to me. I will bear & for- 
bear much in the hope that he may consider better 
of his course. If I would yield up the Government 
into his hands & suffer him to be in effect President, 
and especially in bestowing the public patronage so 
as to advance his own political aspirations, I have 
no doubt he would be cheerful and satisfied. This 
I cannot do. 

In less than an hour after he retired from the Cabi- 
net room [he] sent to me by his messenger the rough 
draft of a very laconic despatch commencing, " I am 
directed by the President &c." It was not full 
enough; & I was not satisfied with it. It was ac- 
companied by a note requesting me to make " any 



236 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 Feb. 

corrections I might think proper in pencil, & return 
it in time for the mail." I cast my eye over it and 
told the messenger to tell Mr. Buchanan I would at- 
tend to it on to-morrow. In about an hour after the 
messenger left my office, he returned with a note 
from Mr. Buchanan assigning reasons against the 
decision made by me in the Cabinet, and for his 
dissent. To this note I made no reply; and within 
an hour the messenger came back with another note 
on the same subject, to which I made no reply. The 
draft of the despatch and the two notes, Numbered 
i & 2, I will preserve. 

WEDNESDAY, 1 8th February, 1846. — Had com- 
pany as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock. After that 
hour I was engaged in disposing of the business on 
my table. 

The President's mansion was opened for the re- 
ception of company this evening. The Halls and 
parlours were all densely crowded with ladies & gen- 
tlemen, consisting of the Cabinet, other officers of 
the Government, civil, military, & Naval, members 
of Congress, Foreign Ministers, citizens, and stran- 
gers. The Marine Band were in attendance in the 
outer Hall. The crowd was very great, but the 
evening passed off very pleasantly, and between 11 
& 12 O'Clock the company retired. 

To-day at 1 O'Clock P. M. The French Minister 
called according to appointment & delivered to me 
two letters from Louis Phillippe, the King of the 
French, announcing the birth of two princes, 1 his 

1 The princes whose birth is referred to were Louis Philippe, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 237 

grand-children. The Minister was in full Court 
dress, and delivered the letters with great form. I 
confess the practice of announcing officially the 
birth of Foreign Princes to the President of the 
United States, has always appeared to me to be su- 
premely ridiculous. It has repeatedly occurred 
since I have been President, and I have found my- 
self constrained to yield to the long practice of my 
predecessors, and to receive them and make civil & 
suitable answers to them. 

THURSDAY, IQth February, 1846. — Saw com- 
pany as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Among 
others who called was the Rev'd Mr. Dean, who had 
been many years a Christian Missionary in China. 
He had with him a native Chinese man, who had 
been converted to the Christian religion. He spoke 
but little English. I held some conversation with 
him through Mr. Dean who interpreted. He was 
about 23 years of age, and appeared to be intelligent. 
On taking leave of him, and while shaking hands, he 
expressed in his own language, which was inter- 
preted by Mr. Dean, that he had seen the King of 
this country, and said he would tell it to his coun- 
trymen when he got home. I told him through Mr. 
Dean that there was no king in this country, but 
that he had seen a citizen who had been chosen by 
the people to manage the Government for a limited 
time. This was explained to him by Mr. Dean, but 
I am not sure that he comprehended it. There were 

Count of Paris, and Robert, Duke of Chartres. The French 
minister at Washington was Alphonse Pageot. 



238 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Feb. 

a number of ladies & gentlemen in my office during 
the interview, which was an interesting one. He 
afterwards called on Mrs. Polk in the parlour, but 
I was not present. I understood that he had said 
to her, he was glad he had seen the Queen. 

Received to-day despatches from the U. S. Consul 
at Vera Cruz. 

On yesterday I did not see Mr. Buchanan, and 
took no step in relation to the proposed despatch to 
Mr. Slidell, U. S. Minister at Mexico, an account 
of which is given in this Diary of the 17th Instant. 
To-day I addressed a short note to Mr. Buchanan in- 
forming him that I had concluded to take no action 
on the subject for a few days, in the expectation that 
we must very soon receive further information from 
Mr. Slidell. I had not changed my opinion, but 
as Mr. Buchanan dissented from me in opinion I 
concluded a short delay would not be prejudicial, 
& especially as I was in daily expectation of hearing 
again from Mr. Slidell. x 

About 2 O'Clock Mr. Buchanan called and read 
to me a note from Mr. Lisboa, the Brazilian Min- 
ister, written under instructions from his Govern- 
ment, advising that the United States should without 
delay acknowledge the Independence of Paraguay. 
We had some conversation on the subject, & it was 
agreed that Mr. Buchanan should have an interview 
with General Alvier [Alvear], the charge d' affaires 
of the Argentine Republic, who had expressed a 
desire some weeks ago that the Independence of Par- 
aguay should not be recognized by the U. States. It 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 239 

was deemed proper therefore to consult him further 
before acting on the subject. 

Mr. Buchanan's manner was formal and our con- 
versation altogether official. 

Saw a number of gentlemen on business in my 
office after night. 

FRIDAY, 20th February, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock. The Secretary of War called & 
spent some time with me, examining the credentials 
of applicants for cadet's warrants to West Point, and 
consulting with me in regard to the selections to be 
made. Mr. Walker, Sec. of the Treasury, called 
and read to Gov. Marcy and myself a letter which 
he had addressed to the Committee of Commerce 
of the Senate, to whom has been referred the nomi- 
nation of James H. Tate of Miss, as Consul at Buenos 
Ayres. It was in answer to charges preferred before 
the Committee by Hon. Jacob Thompson of the Ho. 
Repts. against Mr. Tate, in which Mr. Walker had 
been indirectly assailed. Mr. Walker's answer is a 
full & triumphant vindication of himself and Dr. 
Tate. It was read to me merely to satisfy me of the 
true state of the facts, & and not for any action on 
my part. Mr. Walker informed me that since Dr. 
Tate's arrival in Washington a few days ago, Mr. 
Thompson had withdrawn the charges against him. 
Mr. Thompson's course in this matter is not to be 
justified. In Dr. Tate's absence he made his ex- 
parte charges before the Committee of the Senate in 
secret session, when no one knew at the time that he 



2 4 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Feb. 

would return. Dr. Tate unexpectedly arrived from 
Buenos Ayres in Washington, in consequence of the 
blockade of that port by the combined forces of Eng- 
land & France which had destroyed the commerce 
of the place and consequently the profits of the office. 
He returned unexpectedly to every one, with the in- 
tention, as he declared, to resign. On reaching 
Washington he informed me that finding he had 
been assailed in his absence he determined not to 
resign, and showed me a correspondence between 
Mr. Thompson and himself last summer which 
placed Mr. Thompson in a very awkward situation. 
He said he felt that his character was now at stake; 
that he would not resign, but that the Senate must 
decide on his nomination. Mr. Walker (the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury) informs me to-day that Mr. 
Thompson, since Dr. Tate's arrival at Washington, 
has withdrawn the charges which in his absence he 
had made against him before the committee of com- 
merce of the Senate. Mr. Thompson's conduct in 
thrs affair was vindictive & without excuse. I refer 
to the notice of his conduct recorded in this diary 
before Dr. Tate's return to the U. S., and before his 
return was anticipated, 

Mr. Buchanan called in on business before Mr. 
Walker had finished reading his letter addressed to 
the committee of commerce. He remained an hour 
in conversation, & was more pleasant in his manner 
than he had been for several weeks past. 

SATURDAY, 2 1st February, 1846.— The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 241 

ent. Nothing of importance occurred. Several 
public matters of minor importance were spoken of. 
The late news brought by the Steamer Cambria was 
the subject of conversation, and opinions were ex- 
pressed concerning it. The impression of all was 
that it was pacific. Nothing however had been re- 
ceived except what was contained in the Foreign 
newspapers, no despatches from our Ministers abroad 
having come to hand. The Cabinet adjourned at an 
early hour. 

About 9 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan sent to me 
a despatch received by this evening's mail from Mr. 
McLane, the U. S. Minister at London. The in- 
formation communicated by Mr. McLane was not 
altogether of so pacific a character as the accounts 
given in the English newspapers had led me to be- 
lieve. Mr. Senator Turney of Tennessee called in 
company with Mr. Matlock after night. 

SUNDAY, 22nd February, 1846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk, who had come over from 
Georgetown College to spend the day with my 
family. 

Immediately after church Mr. Walker, the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, and Mr. Bancroft, the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, called to see the despatch received 
last night from Mr. McLane, the U. S. Minister at 
London. About 6 O'Clock P. M. Mr. C. Johnson, 
the Post Master General, called for the same pur- 
pose. 



242 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Feb. 

MONDAY, 23rd February, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock. Among others 
Col. Tod 1 of Ohio, the Democratic candidate for 
Governor of that State, accompanied by the Hon. 
Mr. Farson of Cincinnati. Col. Tod informed me 
that he feared the Brittish Government would renew 
to me the offer which I made last summer to settle the 
Oregon question on the parallel of the 49th degree 
of North Latitude, and he said if such a proposi- 
tion was offered and accepted the Democratic party 
in Ohio would be defeated. He said that was all he 
feared in the coming political contest in Ohio. He 
added further, that if the question of War or peace 
were submitted to the popular vote in Ohio, a large 
majority would be in favour of war. I simply re- 
plied that no such proposition had yet been made, 
and that upon the Oregon question I stood precisely 
where I did at the date of my Message on the 2nd 
of December last; that all the proposition which had 
been made since that time was that of arbitration, 
which he knew had been rejected. I did not inform 
him what I would do in the event such a proposition 
as he apprehended would be made by the Brittish 
Government. 

At 1 O'Clock Mr. Bancroft called in & a few 
minutes afterwards Mr. Buchanan came in, the lat- 
ter by appointment. Mr. McLane's despatch was 
carefully read over, and the question considered 
whether, in view of the additional information com- 
municated of the war-like preparations making by 

1 David Tod, 1 805-1 868, minister to Brazil 1 847-1 852, Gov- 
ernor of Ohio 1 862-1 864. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 243 

Great Brittain, it would be proper for me to send a 
message to Congress recommending similar prepara- 
tions on our part. After a free conversation on this 
point, all agreed it was proper to postpone any de- 
cision until the meeting of the Cabinet on to-morrow. 
Mr. McLane, in his last despatch of the 4th Instant, 
is entirely silent in relation to the receipt of Mr. 
Buchanan's despatch which was sent out by the 
Steamer from Boston of the 1st of January, and in 
relation to the receipt of my private letter to him of 
the 29th of December last, sent out by the same 
Steamer, from which the irresistible inference is that 
he could not have received them. Mr. Buchanan 
left, and returned in about an hour with a letter 
from Mr. Hubbard, the despatch agent at Boston, 
under date of the 1st of January, 1846, stating that 
he had delivered the despatches from the State De- 
partment to Mr. Messer. I told Mr. Buchanan to 
write immediately to Mr. Hubbard for an explana- 
tion, and to know who Mr. Messer, to whom he de- 
livered them, was. 

At 9 O'Clock P. M. I [was] waited on by the Hon. 
Mr. Chapman of Va. and the Hon. Mr. Bauldin 1 
of Missouri as a committee to accompany me to the 
Birth Night Ball in honor of Gen'l George Wash- 
ington. At about 10 O'Clock I was conducted into 
the ball-room at Carusi's Saloon. There was a nu- 
merous assembly, and among them the Foreign Min- 
isters, with one or two exceptions, all in their Court 
dresses. It was remarked by several persons in my 

1 Probably James Butler Bowlin, Representative from Missouri 
1 843-1 85 1. 



244 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Feb. 

hearing that neither the VicePresident of the U. 
States nor any member of my Cabinet were present. 
This undoubtedly happened from inadvertance, and 
not from any thought of manifesting from their ab- 
sence any disrespect to the memory of the great and 
good Washington. As soon as supper was over I 
retired. 

TUESDAY, 24th February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Mr. McLane's despatch of the 3rd Instant was 
read. Mr. Buchanan declared his opinion to be that 
an answer should be forwarded to Mr. McLane by 
the packet which will leave Boston on the first 
proximo, in substance to the following effect, viz., 
that Mr. McLane be instructed to inform Lord 
Aberdeen in conversation that the door was not 
closed by anything which had heretofore occur[r]ed 
on the Oregon question against any further proposi- 
tion of compromise which that Government might 
wish to make; he proposed that Mr. McLane should 
be informed also that if the Brittish Government 
made a proposition for the 49th parallel of latitude, 
reserving for a limited term of 7 or 10 years, as sug- 
gested by Mr. McLane in his despatch, the free navi- 
gation of the Columbia, and the occupation of their 
establishments for a like term of years, that such a 
proposition would be submitted by the President to 
the Senate in Executive Session for their previous 
advice. The proposition was discussed at length by 
the Cabinet. I called upon each member of the Cab- 
inet individually for his advice before I expressed 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 245 

any opinion of my own. All of them except Mr. 
Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, concurred with Mr. Bu- 
chanan that such a despatch should be forwarded to 
Mr. McLane. Mr. Johnson agreed with them that 
if such a proposition was made by the Brittish Gov- 
ernment the President ought to submit it to the Senate 
for their advice before he acted upon it, but his objec- 
tion was to communicating this fact to Lord Aber- 
deen, because it would have the appearance of inviting 
him to make the proposition, and would be exposing 
our hand to him; and that seeing it, he would insist 
that we would take something less. It was answered 
that this would be no exposure of our hand from 
which Lord Aberdeen could infer that we would take 
anything less, but on the contrary might have the ef- 
fect of preventing him from proposing less, such as 
that we should concede the free navigation of the 
Columbia without limitation as to time, a proposition 
which if made we could not accept. Mr. Johnson 
did not object to the submission of such a proposition 
as had been suggested by Mr. Buchanan to the Senate, 
and even if the Brittish Government insisted that we 
should concede to them, in addition to the navigation 
of the Columbia for 7 or 10 years, the Southern 
Cap[e] of Vancouver's Island below 49 , he thought 
the President should submit that proposition to the 
Senate for their advice, but his objection was to mak- 
ing known to Lord Aberdeen what proposition, if 
made, we would consider or submit to the Senate. 
Mr. Buchanan finally remarked that he thought he 
could prepare a despatch which would harmonize 
the opinions of the Cabinet, and not be objected to 



24 6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Feb. 

by the Cabinet. It was agreed that he should pre- 
pare a draft of a despatch, and that the Cabinet 
would hold a special meeting to consider it at 8 
O'Clock to-morrow night. After a protracted meet- 
ing, and without transacting any other business of 
importance, the Cabinet adjourned to meet at 8 
O'Clock to-morrow night. 

After night Mr. Senator Haywood called and in- 
formed me that there was a scheme on foot on the 
part of Mr. McDuffie, Mr. Calhoun, and perhaps 
other Senators to bring forward a Resolution in Ex- 
ecutive Session of the Senate advising the President 
to re-open the negotiation on the Oregon question, 
and settle it by compromise. He informed me that 
Col. Benton, to whom it had been made known, had 
declared to him (Mr. Haywood) that he would op- 
pose it, upon the ground that it would be taking the 
question out of the President's hands, and that those 
who moved in it wished to have the credit of set- 
tling it. Mr. Haywood told me that Mr. Calhoun 
& those who followed him would be willing to set- 
tle it upon any terms, even if all Great Brittain de- 
manded was yielded to her, whilst Mr. Senator Allen 
and others from the North West would be satisfied 
with nothing less than our extreme demand of 54 - 
40', and he thought each of these sets of gentlemen 
had their ulterior or personal objects to accomplish, 
and were endeavouring to make political capital for 
themselves in the next Presidential election. He de- 
clared that he was himself in favour of compromise, 
by running a line on the 49 of latitude or something 
that would approximate that line; that he was in 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 247 

favour of the notice and after consultation with 
Senators on both political sides had resolved at the 
conclusion of Mr. Dickinson's speech, Mr. D. now 
having the floor, to move the reference of the whole 
subject to a select committee of nine members, with 
a view to put the resolution of notice into a shape 
that would command a large majority of the Senate, 
without distinction of parties. He informed me 
that Col. Benton among others approved this course. 
He informed me also, that he had sought this in- 
terview at this time to give me information of what 
was contemplated by Mr. Calhoun, Mr. McDuffie, 
and other Senators because he understood that Mr. 
McDuffie intended to call on me soon on the sub- 
ject, and he thought I ought to be apprised before- 
hand of the object of his visit. He suggested also 
that it would be agreeable to Col. Benton, he knew, 
if I would at such time as I might select, send for 
him & consult him on the subject, and I thought Mr. 
H. seemed to desire that I would do so. He added 
that Col. Benton had said to him, when enquired of 
on the subject, that he would with pleasure call on 
me, at any hour of the day or night I might indicate 
to him that I desired it. Mr. H. informed me also 
that when the nomination of Romulus M. Saunders 
as En. Ex. & minister Plen. to Spain was read in 
Executive Session of the Senate to-day, he had gone 
to Col. Benton, knowing that he had no friendly 
feelings towards Mr. Saunders, and requested him 
not to oppose his confirmation, and that before the 
Senate adjourned Col. B. [said] he would make no 
opposition to him, although he did not like him. 



248 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Feb. 

Mr. Haywood then told him that he was heartily 
glad of it, because he knew that the President had 
refused to nominate a gentleman as Secretary of Le- 
gation because he had learned that he had made a 
brutal attack on the character of him, Col. B. Col. 
B. replied that he had known nothing of that, and 
that he would vote to confirm Mr. Saunder's nomi- 
nation. 

After Haywood left I spent one or two hours in 
the parlour where there were a number of visitors, 
ladies and gentlemen. About ^y 2 O'Clock Mr. Al- 
len of the Senate called, and after holding a con- 
versation with Mr. Stanton and Cullom, 1 who had 
also called on other matters, I saw Mr. Allen. Mr. 
Allen had learned something of the contemplated 
movements in the Senate, of which Mr. Haywood 
had spoken. He expressed his views on the Oregon 
question as he had often done before freely. He 
was for our extreme right to 54 40' and nothing 
less. He said there were certain men in the Senate, 
alluding evidently to Mr. Calhoun and others, who 
wished to induce me to compromise the Oregon ques- 
tion by dividing the territory, and that if I did so 
they would accomplish one object they had in view, 
which was to break me down and destroy my popu- 
larity. He said if I made such a compromise by 
any division, I would encounter the opposition of 
nine or ten States in the West and South West. I 
replied that so far as I was personally concerned 
that would not affect me, because I was no candidate 

1 Alvan Cullom and Frederick P. Stanton, Representatives from 
Tennessee; Stanton was Governor of Kansas 1 858-1 861. 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 249 

for re-election, and there was no future for me in 
politics. I remarked further to him that I thought 
I would seek an opportunity in answer to some 4th 
of July invitation next summer, or some other fit oc- 
casion, to repeat in a letter my determination not to 
be a candidate. [Mr.] Allen insisted I should not. 
I repeated that I would do so. Mr. Allen had be- 
fore expressed to me his wish that I should be a 
candidate, and I had told him then, and now re- 
peated, that I would not be. I reminded Mr. Allen 
that I had before consulted him as to my course if 
the Brittish Government should propose to accede 
to my offer last summer to compromise by the 49th 
degree of latitude which had been withdrawn, and 
[or] a proposition approximating to it, and that he 
had advised me in that case to submit it to the Sen- 
ate for their advice before I acted upon it, & that 
that was the course I had resolved to pursue. When 
Mr. Allen left it was near 12 O'Clock at night. 

WEDNESDAY, 25th February, 1846. — Saw com- 
pany for an hour this morning. At about io^4 
O'Clock Mr. Calhoun of S. C. and Mr. Colquitt x of 
Geo. were announced. After the company who were 
with me retired, which was within a few minutes, I 
received them in my office. Mr. Calhoun handed 
me a letter marked Private, from Mr. McDuffie, 
which I opened and read. In the letter he regrets 
that the state of the weather (there being a snow 
storm) prevents him from calling on me this morn- 

1 Walter T. Colquitt, 1799— 1855, Senator from Georgia 1843- 
1849. 



2 5 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Feb. 

ing. It relates to the present state of the Oregon 
question, and his opinions on the subject. It is an 
important letter and I have placed it on my files. 

Mr. Calhoun, as soon as I had read the letter, 
opened a conversation on the Oregon question. He 
said he thought it important that some action of a 
pacific character should go out to England by the 
Steamer of the 1st proximo, and he asked my opinion 
of the policy of the Senate in Executive Session pass- 
ing a Resolution advising the President to re-open 
negotiations on the basis of the 49th degree of North 
Latitude. He said Mr. McDuffie was very anxious 
to present such a Resolution, and went on to advocate 
the policy of such a movement. I told him that 
there were many members of the Senate of more 
age and experience in public affairs than I possessed, 
and of course they would act upon their own views, 
but that as he had called on me for my opinion I 
must frankly say that I could not in the present state 
of the question advise such a course. For this opin- 
ion I assigned my reasons, and asked him if he knew 
that such a resolution as Mr. McDuffie proposed to 
offer would command a vote of two-thirds of the 
Senate, and pointed out to him the fatal consequences 
of bringing forward such a Resolution if it should 
receive a smaller vote. I told him that though the 
proceeding proposed would be in Executive Session 
with closed doors, we all knew that it would be 
known in the streets and to the Brinish Minister in 
less than 24 hours. I told him further that if such 
a proposition was brought forward by a Senator, 
there might be members of the Senate who would 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 251 

vote against it on the ground that the negotiation was 
in the hands of the Executive, and that on that ac- 
count it was inexpedient if not improper. I told 
him- I could say to himself and Mr. Colquitt, as 
members of the Senate and my constitutional ad- 
visers, in the confidence of that relation between us, 
what I had thought it probable I would do if the 
Brittish Government should propose the 49 or a 
proposition, if not for that parallel as a compromise, 
with slight modifications of it. I told him if such 
a proposition were made by the Brittish Govern- 
ment, I would probably feel it to be my duty to sub- 
mit it to the Senate in a Confidential communication 
and ask their advice, before I decided on it. I as- 
signed my reasons for this course. One of the rea- 
sons why I did not advise the course proposed to be 
taken in Executive Session of the Senate by Mr. 
McDuffie, I did not assign. It was the fact com- 
municated to me on yesterday by Mr. Haywood, that 
Col. Benton and other Senators would not vote for 
it, for the reasons assigned by Mr. H., if the move- 
ment was made by an individual Senator, when they 
might vote for it if asked for their advice by the 
President. I did not feel authorized to assign this 
reason, Mr. Haywood's conversation with me having 
been confidential. Mr. Calhoun 1 continued the 
conversation on the Oregon question, and intimated 
that I could, without national dishonor, repropose 
the 49 as the basis of compromise. I told him I 

1 For Calhoun's views at this time see his letter to Thomas G. 
Clemson, February 25, 1846, in Annual Report American His- 
torical Association, 1899, II, 683. 



252 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Feb. 

would not do so, and that if a further proposition 
was made it must come from the Brittish Govern- 
ment. The free navigation of the Columbia River 
was spoken of, and I repeated to him what I had 
said in my annual Message, that I would not yield 
it. He said he regretted I had expressed that opin- 
ion in the Message, and spoke of granting to Brittish 
subjects the right of transit down the river with their 
furs, to which he thought there could be no objec- 
tion. I expressed the opinion strongly that the no- 
tice should be given, and that until it was given, and 
we thereby indicated to Great Brittain that we were 
in earnest in asserting our rights, no proposition for 
settlement would be made by that Government. 
The whole tenor of Mr. Calhoun's conversation satis- 
fied me that he was uneasy in his present position on 
the question, and that he would be willing to make 
very large concessions to Great Brittain in order to 
settle the controversy and relieve himself from his 
position, which was manifestly embarrassing to him. 
Mr. Colquitt remained a few minutes after Mr. Cal- 
houn retired, and said to me that he had not de- 
sired to visit me with Mr. Calhoun this morning, but 
that he had been induced to do so. He expressed 
himself to be in favour of the notice in its naked 
form, but thought it had better be accompanied by 
some conciliatory expression of opinion on the part 
of Congress. 

After Mr. Calhoun & Mr. Colquitt left I sent for 
Mr. Buchanan, & related to him the substance of the 
conversation with Mr. Calhoun. Mr. Buchanan ap- 
proved what I had said to him. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 253 

At 8 O'Clock P. M. the Cabinet held a special 
meeting, all the members present. Mr. Buchanan 
read the draft of a despatch 1 which he had prepared 
to Mr. McLane. It was modified in some of its 
paragraphs. It was approved by all the Cabinet ex- 
cept the P. M. Gen'l, who repeated his objections as 
stated at the last regular meeting of the Cabinet, but 
finally acquiesced in it. The Cabinet adjourned 
about n O'Clock P.M. 

THURSDAY, 26th February, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock to-day. Gave Mr. Healey, the 
artist who painted my portrait some days ago, a 
sitting of between 2 & 3 hours, to enable him to finish 
a copy of the portrait, which he desired to retain 
for himself and take with him to France. 

About 9 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Senator Haywood 
called, and gave me a long account of the debate 
which took place in the Senate to-day on the mo- 
tion of Mr. Colquitt to modify the resolution of 
Notice on the Oregon question. He said there was 
a combination between Mr. Calhoun and a few 
Democratic Senators with the body of Whig Sena- 
tors to take the subject out of the hands of the Ex- 
ecutive, and that Mr. C. desired to relieve himself 
from the embarrassment in which his previous course 
on the subject had placed him. Mr. H. was excited 
and spoke in strong terms of disapprobation of the 
course taken by Mr. Calhoun and some other Sena- 
tors. He avowed himself to be in favour of a com- 
promise on the 49th degree of latitude. He was op- 

1 Moore, Buchanan, III, 377. 



254 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Feb. 

posed to conceding the permanent free navigation 
of the Columbia River to Great Brittain, but [said] 
that he would not object to granting some few ports, 
or any other easement not materially affecting the 
settlement at 49 . Beyond this he was unwilling to 
go, and would fight before he would do so. 

Mr. Haywood, who had on a former occasion 
stated to me objections to the appointment of Mr. 
Greenhow of Va. as Secretary of Legation to Spain, 
upon the ground that when editor of a newspaper at 
Petersburg, Va. a year or two ago he had made a 
direct personal attack on Col. Benton, had a further 
conversation on the subject with me. I had com- 
mitted myself to Mr. Greenhow for the appointment 
during the last summer, without any knowledge that 
there were any such objections to him. Mr. 
Haywood had avowed to me, when he informed me 
of the objection some days ago, his intention to vote 
against his nomination if I made it, and had added 
that his nomination would be regarded by Col. Ben- 
ton as a personal insult to him, especially after I 
had been informed what the objection was. I stated 
that my embarrassment was this, that I had com- 
mitted myself to Mr. Greenhow last summer, and if 
I did not nominate him he & his friends in Va., 
who had taken great interest in him, would consider 
that he had been treated with bad faith, and if I 
did nominate him with the knowledge I now pos- 
sessed, it seemed I would give personal offence to 
a Senator, & that he would probably be rejected. 
After some further conversation on the subject, Mr. 
Haywood suggested that if I could send him abroad 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 255 

as bearer of despatches or place him in some situa- 
tion in which it would not be necessary to nominate 
him to the Senate, it would relieve me of the diffi- 
culty. He finally suggested that the matter should 
rest as it was until he could write to Mr. R. M. 
Saunders, the Minister to Spain recently appointed, 
to come to Washington, upon the belief that upon 
a conference with him the embarrassment might be 
removed. I assented to the suggestion and he wrote 
a letter to Mr. Saunders accordingly, at my table, 
and took it away with him to put into the Post Office. 
Mr. Haywood left about 12 O'Clock at night. 

FRIDAY, 2Jth February, 1 846. — Saw an unusually 
large number of visitors to-day. Many called to pay 
their respects, and many to annoy me about office. 
The pressure upon me for office has not in any de- 
gree abated. It is one of the most painful of my 
duties to hear these applications, and especially when 
I have no offices to bestow. There is at present an 
unusual number of office seekers in the City, who are 
so patriotic as to desire to serve their country by 
getting into fat offices. The truth is I have become 
greatly disgusted with the passion for office, which 
seems to be increasing. 

At the request of Mr. Shank of Cincinnatti, Ohio, 
who was taking Deguerreotype likenesses of the la- 
dies of the family in one of the parlours below stairs, 
[and] requested to take mine for his own use, and 
I gave him a sitting. He took several good like- 
nesses. 

At 7 O'Clock Mr. Archer of the U. S. Senate from 



256 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Feb. 

Virginia called by previous appointment. His ob- 
ject was to hold a conversation with me on the Ore- 
gon question. He expressed himself as being most 
anxious for a settlement of it, and to avoid war, the 
horrors of which he depicted in strong terms. I 
heard his views, which were not new to me, being 
those entertained by the Whig party generally. I 
responded to him in general terms maintaining the 
grounds I had taken in the annual message. He in- 
sisted that if the Brittish Government should make 
another proposition for compromise, I should submit 
it to the Senate for their advice. I told him if such 
a proposition was made I would judge of its char- 
acter, and consider of the propriety of taking the 
course which he recommended. He was very ear- 
nest on this point, and thought it would be my duty 
to do so. I told him if such a proposition was made 
by the Brittish Government as in my judgment might 
with propriety be submitted to the Senate I would 
see him on the subject before I decided. With this 
he seemed to be much gratified. He spoke of con- 
versations he had held with Mr. Pakenham on the 
subject, and in this connection, said he had told Mr. 
Pakenham to write to his Government not to insist 
on the free navigation of the Columbia. I told him 
the perpetual free navigation of that River to Brit- 
tish subjects could never be yielded by the U. S., 
and should any proposition containing it be made it 
would certainly be rejected. I was cautious in my 
conversation with him; spoke in general terms, and 
was careful not to commit myself as to my future 
course. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 257 

This being an evening for re[ce]iving company 
informally, I accompanied Mr. Archer from my of- 
fice to the parlour at about 8j^ O'Clock, where I 
found 30 or 40 ladies & gentlemen, chiefly strangers 
on a visit to the City. Several others called in in 
the course of the evening, & having left, Mrs. Polk 
& the family retired from the parlour about 11 
O'Clock P. M. 

SATURDAY, 28th February, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Several public matters of minor importance 
were considered and disposed of. Our relations with 
Mexico were also the subject of conversation. The 
state of the Oregon question was the one of chief de- 
liberation. Mr. Buchanan brought up for con- 
sideration the propriety of sending a message to 
Congress recommending as a precautionary measure 
that they should make provision for the pub- 
lic defence. I told him I inclined to the opinion 
that it should be done, and added that I would be 
pleased to have the opinion and advice of the Cabi- 
net. No distinct vote was taken or opinion ex- 
pressed, but enough was said to satisfy me that the 
members of the Cabinet were inclined to favor the 
suggestion, unless it was Mr. Bancroft and Mr. 
Mason, who appeared to doubt the policy of such a 
message. I remarked that the Secretary of War and 
Secretary of the Navy had with my concurrence 
made communications to the Military and Naval 
committees of both Houses of Congress asking addi- 
tional appropriations to put the country in a better 



258 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Feb. 

state of defence, and I had hoped that Congress 
would have done so in a quiet way, without alarming 
the country at home or attracting unnecessary atten- 
tion abroad. I added that the state of our relations 
both with Mexico and England required that it 
should be done. It appeared, however, that it would 
not be done, unless Congress were roused by a 
special message, and yet I saw if such a message were 
sent in to Congress, it would be calculated to pro- 
duce a panic in the country. After some further 
conversation at Mr. Buchanan's suggestion the ques- 
tion was postponed for further consideration. 

Mr. Buchanan's tone on the Oregon question was 
bolder and more decided to-day than I had hereto- 
fore observed it to be. He expressed his opinion 
that there was great danger of War, and that the 
country ought to prepare for defence if War should 
come. He stated that he had information, from a 
source on which he relied, that the Whig Senators 
had held a caucus on Wednesday or thursday last, 
at which he understood they had come to the resolve 
that if the President called on the Senate for their 
previous advice on the Oregon question they would 
not give it, but [would] throw the whole responsi- 
bility on the President. I stated a doubt as to the 
correctness of this information, as Mr. Archer, a 
Whig Senator, in the conversation with me on last 
evening [desired] that I should ask the advice of the 
Senate if the Brittish Government should make a 
further proposition. The Cabinet after a long sit- 
ting adjourned about 4 O'Clock P. M. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 259 

After dark Senator Dickinson of New York called 
on business. 

Being greatly exhausted by constant confinement 
and labour, I directed my porter to admit no more 
company to-night. There was a heavy snow Storm 
and it was a very inclement evening. I needed rest, 
and was rejoiced at the opportunity to be relieved 
from company. 

SUNDAY, 1st March, 1846. — The snow-storm 
which commenced on the night of friday, the 27th 
ultimo, continued until about 3 O'Clock P. M. to- 
day. The depth of snow was from 12 to 15 inches. 
The day was so inclement that none of the family 
attended church. About 5 O'Clock P. M. Mrs. 
Polk's brother, Major Jno. W. Childress, came to the 
President's mansion, having arrived at the City 
about 2 O'Clock P. M. to-day. He left his resi- 
dence near Murf reesborough, Tennessee, as he stated, 
on the 16th ultimo. 

MONDAY, 2nd March, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour Mr. 
Buchanan, Sec. of State, Mr. Marcy, Sec. of War, 
[and] Mr. Bancroft, Sec. of the Navy, severally 
called on official business. I disposed of much busi- 
ness on my table. I had less company and a more 
quiet day than usual. Mr. Edwin Polk, who is the 
half-brother of my father, and my nephew, Samuel 
P. Caldwell, both of Tennessee, arrived, and upon 
my invitation took rooms in the President's mansion. 



2 6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

After night some company called, & among others 
Senator Dix * of N. York and Senator Allen of Ohio. 

TUESDAY, 3rd March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except the Attorney General, who was in attendance 
on the Supreme Court of the U. States. No busi- 
ness of importance was transacted. Several public 
matters of minor importance were the subject of con- 
versation. The Cabinet adjourned about 1 O'Clock 
P. M. Mr. Senator Colquitt of Georgia called this 
morning and held a conversation on the Oregon ques- 
tion. I expressed to him my desire that the Demo- 
cratic party and the Senate should harmonize and 
agree upon some form of Notice, for which they 
could all vote. I told him I regretted the debate 
which had taken place in the Senate on thursday last 
on his amendment, because I thought it calculated 
to do mischief, and suggested to him whether they 
could not agree on the House Resolutions, which had 
passed that body by a vote of more than 3 to 1. He 
said he would vote for the naked notice, or in any 
other reasonable form, and was willing if necessary 
to give up his amendment. I told him my great 
object was to have harmony in the action of the 
Democratic party and to have the notice passed by as 
large a majority as possible. 

This being reception evening I spent the evening 
after 8 O'Clock in the parlour. Some 20 or 30 per- 
sons called, members of Congress and others. 

1 John Adams Dix, 1798-1879, Senator from New York 1845— 
1849. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 261 

WEDNESDAY, 4th March, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock. The number who 
called was not numerous, but most of them were 
seeking office for themselves or their friends. I am 
ready to exclaim, will the pressure for office never 
cease! It is one year to-day since I entered on the 
duties of my office, and still the pressure for office 
has not abated. I most sincerely wish that I had 
no offices to bestow. If I had not it would add much 
to the happiness and comfort of my position. As 
it is, I have no offices to bestow without turning out 
better men than a large majority of those who seek 
their places. 

About 6 O'Clock this evening Mr. Senator Speight 
of Mississippi called, and held a conversation with 
me on the Oregon question. He spoke of the con- 
flicting views taken by Senators of my position. I 
told him I stood upon the ground occupied in my 
message of the 2nd of December last, and expressed 
to him my anxiety that my friends in the Senate har- 
monize in their action in carrying out the notice and 
other measures recommended in that message. The 
conversation led off to other topics, and among other 
things Mr. Speight informed me that Senator Man- 
gum of N. C. had informed him that Senator Cam- 
eron of Penn. had said to him that Mr. Buchanan 
was opposed to the modification of the tariff recom- 
mended by the Secretary of the Treasury and was 
using his secret influence to prevent a modification; 
that many persons from the manufacturing districts 
in Pennsylvania had visited Mr. Buchanan and 
urged that sooner than suffer a modification of the 



262 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY U Mar. 

tariff the country had better have war by insisting 
on 54 40', and make no compromise on the Oregon 
question. Mr. [Speight] expressed in strong terms 
his disapprobation of Mr. Buchanan's course on the 
tariff & other subjects, and added that Mr. Buchanan 
had it perfectly in his power to have prevented the 
rejection of Mr. Woodward as judge of the Supreme 
Court. Mr. Speight regarded his course as hostile 
to the policy of the administration, and said sooner 
than retain him as Secretary of State he would con- 
sent to see him placed on the bench of the Supreme 
Court of the U. States. 

At 7 O'Clock Senators Yulee of Florida & Lewis ! 
of Alabama were announced as being in my Private 
Secretary's office; and in a few minutes Mr. Speight 
retired. I directed my servant to show the gentle- 
men into my office whilst I retired for a few minutes 
to my private chamber. As I was returning to the 
office, Mr. Senator Hanegan of Indiana called to 
me from the anti-room door, and seemed to be ex- 
cited. He spoke of Mr. Haywood's speech 2 in the 
Senate that day, in which he had undertaken to ex- 
pound my views on the Oregon question, and seemed, 
without asking the direct question, to desire to know 
whether he was authorized to do so. I told him no 
one spoke ex cathedra for me, that my views were 
given in the annual message of the 2nd of December 
last, and that I had authorized no one to express any 
other opinions. He said Mr. Allen had requested 

1 Dixon Hall Lewis, 1 802-1 848, Senator from Alabama 1840- 
1848; an extreme advocate of the State-rights doctrine. 

2 Globe, 29 Cong, i Sess. App. 369-378. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 263 

him to come and see me on the subject. The con- 
versation with Mr. Hanegan was of but a few min- 
utes duration and took place standing in the passage 
near the door of the anti-chamber. 

On going into my office, I found Mr. Yulee & 
Mr. Lewis there and, as I anticipated, they had 
called to see me on the subject of Oregon. Unlike 
Mr. Hanegan they expressed themselves to be greatly 
delighted at Mr. Haywood's speech in the Senate to- 
day. Mr. Lewis spoke of the war-tone of the 
speeches of Mr. Allen and others, as giving to the 
notice a War-like aspect, and as Mr. Allen was chair- 
man of the committee of Foreign affairs he was sup- 
posed to speak my sentiments. I repeated what I 
had but a few minutes before [said] to Mr. Hane- 
gan, that my views were contained in my message of 
the 2nd of December last, and that no one was au- 
thorized to speak for me ex cathedra. I said that 
I had truly set forth in that message my opinions & 
position; that I did not regard the Notice as a war 
measure, but if passed by a decided majority of the 
Senate, as it had been in the House, that it would 
prove to be pacific. I urged harmony in the Demo- 
cratic party, and expressed the hope that the notice 
would not be lost in consequence of differences of 
opinion as to the form the resolution of notice 
should assume. I told Mr. Lew T is that if the notice 
was lost the Democratic party were in danger [of] 
being so distracted and divided in Congress that my 
recommendations for reduction of duties on the tariff 
and all my other measures would be lost also. I ex- 
pressed an anxious desire to effect a reduction of the 



264 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Mar. 

tariff, and again urged harmony on the Oregon ques- 
tion. 

Whilst in conversation my servant announced that 
the company were assembling in the parlours below, 
this being levee evening on which the drawing room 
was open for the reception of visitors. We accord- 
ingly upon the announcement repaired to the par- 
lours. A very large company assembled, filling the 
East-room & all the other parlours. All the Cabi- 
net, most of the Foreign Ministers, many Senators 
& Representatives, and many citizens & strangers, 
ladies & gentlemen, were present. At about nj^ 
O'Clock the company retired, having been orderly 
and well-behaved, no circumstance occur [r]ing to 
disturb the enjoyment of the evening. 

Mr. Dallas, the Vice President, mentioned to me 
during the evening that he understood it was now 
probable that Mr. Horn, who had been nominated 
to the Senate as collector of Phil'a, would be re- 
jected, and he wished to put me on my guard, in 
that event, against a movement which he understood 
would be made for the appointment of his successor. 
He intimated that the plan would be to have a dozen 
or more citizens of Phil'a here, whose object would 
be to have a successor appointed to suit the views of 
those who were opposed to Mr. Horn's confirmation. 
I made no reply, but am resolved, if Mr. Horn is 
rejected, to disappoint those who cause the rejection. 

I venture the remark in reference to the feverish 
excitement of members of the Senate on the question 
of Notice on the Oregon question, that it all pro- 
ceeds from the ambitious aspirations of certain lead- 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 265 

ing members of that body. For example Mr. Cal- 
houn probably thought by opposing the Notice at 
the early part of the Session, that he would best 
advance his views upon the Presidency, by placing 
himself at the head of the peace party in the coun- 
try. He now finds his mistake and is struggling to 
extricate himself from his embarrassment. By his 
influence he induced 16 Democrats in Va. & So. C. 
in the House to vote against the notice, and now 
that he is probably convinced of his mistake, and 
finds that he will not be sustained by either party 
in the country, he feels bound not to desert these 
friends in the House whom he has caused by their 
votes to commit the same mistake. Mr. Allen, on 
the other hand, will hear to no compromise under 
any circumstances, and would probably prefer war 
to peace, because it might subserve his ambitious 
views. Mr. Cass takes the same view that Mr. 
Allen does, as probably his best chance of reaching 
the Presidency, and therefore he acts with Mr. Allen, 
but is not so ultra or ardent. Col. Benton feels that 
he lost cast[e] with Democracy on the Texas ques- 
tion, and feels sore and dissatisfied with his position. 
In the midst of these factions of the Democratic 
party I am left without any certain or reliable 
support in Congress, & especially in the Senate. 
Each leader looks to his own advancement more 
than he does to the success of my measures. I 
am fortunately no candidate for re-election, and 
will appeal to the people for support. If the no- 
tice is defeated it will be by the war between these 
factions. 



266 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Mar. 

Thursday, 5/A March, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Among others Gov. 
Anderson * of Maine called, and in the course of a 
long conversation expressed his conviction that the 
party would be so divided & distracted in 1848 that 
I would be compelled to stand again as a candidate 
for the Presidency, & that the Democracy would de- 
mand it of me. I told him that it was not to be 
thought of; that I desired to harmonize the party if 
possible, & carry out my measures, but that I was 
sincere in the declaration which I had often made 
that I would not be a candidate for re-election. 

Mr. Heister Muhlenberg called after 12 O'Clock. 
He is the son of my old friend Henry A. Muhlen- 
berg 2 of Penn. He complained that Gov. Shunck 3 
had proscribed his father's friends in his appoint- 
ments to office, and he hoped I would not do so. 
I told him I had not done so and would not do so. 
He said he wished some one of his father's friends 
to be appointed Treasurer of the Mint at Phil'a, and 
had some further conversation on the subject and re- 
tired. 

Mr. Buchanan called on official business an hour 
after Mr. Muhlenburg left and I authorized him to 
say to him that I would appoint him (Mr. Muhlen- 

1 Hugh J. Anderson, Governor of Maine 1 844-1 847. 

2 Henry Augustus Muhlenberg, 1 782-1 844, Representative from 
Pennsylvania 1 829-1 838, minister to Austria 1 838-1 840. He 
was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1844, but died 
suddenly just before the election. 

3 Francis Rawn Shunk, 1 788-1 848, Governor of Pennsylvania 
1845-1848. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 267 

burg) Treasurer of the mint if he would accept it. 
Mr. B. said he would request him to call and see 
me. 

Transacted official business with the Secretary of 
War. 

About 8 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Muhlenburg called 
again, as he said Mr. Buchanan had informed him I 
desired to see him. I told him I had requested Mr. 
Buchanan to invite him to call again, for the purpose 
of saying to him that if he would accept the office of 
Treasurer of the Mint at Phil'a, I would appoint 
him. He thanked me & said he was much gratified 
at the offer, but that he desired no office, & declined 
it. He said if I would appoint Mr. McCully of 
Phil'a County, he would be as much obliged as to 
receive the office himself. 

Mr. McKay, 1 chairman of the com. of Ways & 
Means, called by appointment. I had a long con- 
versation with [him] about the tariff, and urged him 
in reporting a bill to the House to preserve the ad 
valorem principle. I had heard that the committee 
were about to introduce specific duties on iron & 
a few other articles, it was for that reason that I 
had requested an interview with him. He agreed 
to report the Bill retaining the ad valorem principle. 

Senator Cass called this evening, and expressed 
deep regret at the unpleasant & excited debate 2 
which occurred to-day in the Senate between Messrs. 
Haywood, Hanegan, & Allen, and expressed the de- 

1 James J. McKay, 1793-1853, Representative from North 
Carolina 1 831-1847. 

2 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 458-460. 



268 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Mar. 

sire that I would not become excited in consequence 
of it. I told him certainly not. He said Mr. Hane- 
gan was impulsive and hasty, and without my saying 
a word to him or any one else he would see that 
Mr. Hanegan put the matter right and did me jus- 
tice at the meeting of the Senate on monday, to 
which day that body had adjourned. I told Gen'l 
Cass that I regretted such collisions between my po- 
litical friends. I told him that my opinions on the 
Oregon question were contained in my annual mes- 
sage, and that no one was authorized to express any 
other opinion for me; that I thought that message 
was written in plain English & was easily under- 
stood. I told him that gentlemen had a right to dis- 
cuss that message and draw their own conclusions 
from its plain import, and that no one had a right to 
attribute to me any other opinions. Gen'l Cass said 
he agreed [with] me entirely, that it was in bad 
taste and all wrong to do so. He said he desired 
to keep peace and harmony in the party and pre- 
vent any outbreak between any of the party and my- 
self, & for that purpose he had called tonight. I 
learned from Gen'l C. & others that the speech of 
Mr. Hanegan had been very violent. He con- 
demned it, but said he would endeavour to have the 
matter put right by Mr. Hanegan himself. I told 
him I would be very calm and go on and do my 
duty, and my friends in Congress must discharge 
theirs according to their views of propriety. 

Friday, 6th March, 1846. — Had company today 
as usual until 12 O'Clock. Shortly after 12 O'Clock 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 269 

Mr. McDuffie of S. C. and Mr. Burt 1 of S. C. 
called, and as Mr. McDuffie walked with difficulty, 
I met them in the parlour below. Mr. McDuffie 
spoke to me in behalf of young Mr. Hammond of 
S. C, the brother of the former Governor of that 
State, who desired to be appointed a Paymaster of 
the army or have a commission in the line, if the 
army was increased at the present Session of Con- 
gress. 

The debate in the Senate on yesterday on the 
Oregon question was spoken of. Mr. McD. re- 
gretted it. I expressed myself as I had done to 
Gen'l Cass on last evening and to others on the sub- 
ject, and repeated that no one in the Senate was 
authorized to speak for me any other opinions or 
sentiments than were contained in the message. I 
urged the importance of harmony in the Democratic 
party and of giving the notice. Some further con- 
versation took place on the Oregon question & the 
tariff. 

In taking my evening walk I met with Senator 
Turney of Tennessee, who walked with me. He 
condemned the debate in the Senate on yesterday, 
and said if he could have obtained the floor he had 
intended to have vindicated me from the insinuation 
that I held any other opinions than in the message 
and the correspondence of the Secretary of State. I 
repeated to him what I had said to Gen'l Cass, Mr. 
McDuffie, and others. He spoke in strong terms of 

1 Armistead Burt, 1802-1883, Representative from South Caro- 
lina 1 843-1 853, author of the Burt amendment to the Oregon 
Bill in 1847. 



270 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Mar. 

his support of my administration on the Oregon & 
other subjects. 

This being an evening for the reception of com- 
pany, I saw several persons, ladies & gentlemen in 
the parlour. 

SATURDAY, ph March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
Several public subjects were considered and disposed 
of. The propriety of my making a communication 
to Congress recommending that provision be made 
for the public defence, as a precautionary measure 
in view of the unsettled state of our relations with 
England and Mexico, was considered, but after 
some discussion it was concluded to postpone it until 
after the arrival of the next Steamer from England, 
which was expected in about two weeks from this 
time. The same subject was discussed in Cabinet 
on Saturday the 28th ultimo, and is recorded in this 
diary of that day. 

About dark Senator Speight of Mississippi called 
and informed me that he had been informed that a 
caucus had been held by a few democratic Senators 
from the North West, whom he called the ultras, 
on the Oregon question, and had appointed a com- 
mittee of their number to wait on me and demand 
whether I intended, if it was offered, to accept as a 
compromise the 49th parallel, or to stand up to 54 
40'. He said several Senators had learned the fact, 
whigs as well as democrats, and had requested him 
to come and let me know it. I informed him that 
I would have no difficulty in answering them if they 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 271 

called, that I had not heard of any such caucus be- 
fore, but that my answer would be an easy one, by 
referring them to my message and the public docu- 
ments, and that that was all I could or would do. 
Mr. Speight spoke of Mr. Haywood's speech and 
the debate in the Senate on thursday last, and said 
Mr. Haywood's speech and the views which he at- 
tributed to me were argumentative, and derived 
solely from the Message and published documents, 
portions of which he read, and that in no part of 
the speech did he undertake to speak for me or to 
give my views, otherwise than he derived them from 
the document. I told him he could not have done 
so, for neither he nor any one else was authorized to 
speak for me or of my opinions, except as they were 
contained in my message and the correspondence of 
the Secretary of State for which I was held respon- 
sible. 

Mr. Speight left after having been with me about 
half an hour, and in less than two minutes Mr. 
Senator Hanegan of In. and Mr. Senator Atchison 
of Missouri were announced. I took it for granted 
that they were the committee of which Mr. Speight 
had given me notice, though in their whole conver- 
sation they did not announce the fact that they were 
so, or that any caucus of Senators had been held. 
I received them courteously and entered into con- 
versation with them on indifferent subjects. Very 
soon Mr. Hanegan introduced the Oregon subject 
and the debate in the Senate on thursday last. He 
spoke freely and strongly in condemnation of Mr. 
Haywood's speech. I told him I had not seen Mr. 



2 7 2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Mar. 

Haywood's speech as it had not been printed, as far 
as I knew. He spoke of his having undertaken to 
speak my views. I told him my views were to be 
found in my message and the published correspond- 
ence, and that no man was authorized to speak for 
me upon any other authority; that in the message 
I thought I had spoken plain English, that it was 
before the Senate and the public and was of course 
public property and subject to criticism and com- 
ment in debate, and that gentlemen had the right 
argumentatively to form their own opinions of it & 
draw their own conclusions. I told him that Mr. 
Senator Allen had made a speech a few days ago, 
and had drawn his own conclusions and expressed 
his own opinions of my views, and when interro- 
gated by Mr. Senator Johnson of Maryland whether 
he spoke my views by authority had answered that 
his only authority was my message and the published 
documents; that Mr. Haywood I supposed had done 
the same thing and had drawn different conclusions. 
He said Mr. Haywood had been interrogated by 
himself and Mr. Allen and had refused to answer, 
to which I remarked I could not of course know 
Mr. Haywood's reasons for declining to answer, but 
that some one who had mentioned the subject to 
me had supposed that it might have been in conse- 
quence of the violent and excited manner in which 
the question was asked. Mr. Atchison remarked 
that Mr. Allen's manner was so violent that he 
would not himself have answered it, if he had been 
in Haywood's place. I told Mr. Hannegan that I 
deeply regretted these dissentions in the Democratic 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 273 

party, and expressed a hope that they would yet har- 
monize and act together in carrying out the recom- 
mendations of my message. I told him I had spoken 
plainly in that message ; that I had recommended the 
Notice, the extension of our laws & jurisdiction over 
our citizens in Oregon, and the other measures enu- 
merated in the message, and in my judgment it was 
wiser to act upon these recommendations than to 
guess or conjecture what I would do in the future, 
and upon a supposed case condemn and denounce 
me in advance; that, in other words, what I had 
done was before the country; act upon that, and if 
I did anything hereafter it would be time enough 
to condemn it after I had acted. Mr. Hannegan 
expressed his friendship for me, and seemed disposed 
from his tone, manner, and expressions to remove 
any impressions which might exist on my mind that 
he intended to attack and denounce me in advance 
in his speech in the Senate on thursday last. He 
then propounded in substance this question: Do 
you go for the whole of Oregon up to 54 40' or 
will you compromise and settle the question at 49 ? 
I answered him that I would answer no man what 
I would do in the future; that for what I might 
do I would be responsible to God and my country 
and if I should hereafter do anything which should 
be disapproved by himself or others, it would be 
time enough to condemn me. I told him that what 
I had done on the Oregon question was before the 
world, and had, I believed, been approved by him- 
self and, as far as I was able to learn, by the 
country generally. He replied, yes, that was so. I 



274 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Mar. 

responded to him, wait then until I act and then ap- 
prove or condemn what I may do. Mr. Atchison 
then said he thought I was right in that, and that 
what I had said was satisfactory. I said, I am 
charged with the Foreign relations of the country, 
and it was unheard of that the President should de- 
clare in advance to any one out of his Cabinet his 
intentions in reference to them. Mr. Hannegan be- 
came calm and expressed the friendship which he 
had ever felt for me. He seemed to be in a good 
humour and after some general conversation, in 
which I reiterated that my public message and the 
published documents contained the opinions which 
the public had a right to discuss, and protested against 
declaring what I would do in advance, or to be con- 
demned in advance for what any one might suppose 
I would do. I urged harmony in the Democratic 
party, and that the notice and other recommenda- 
tions in my message concerning Oregon should be 
carried out by my political friends in Congress. A 
short time before Mr. Hanegan and Mr. Atchison 
left, my servant announced that Senator Allen had 
called. After they left Mr. Allen came in. I re- 
ceived him courteously; and after a few minutes he 
introduced the same subject upon which I had been 
conversing with Mr. Hanegan and Atchison. I ex- 
pressed to him in substance the same views which 
I had to them. He was much excited and spoke 
freely of Mr. Haywood's speech, said it was a de- 
liberate attack on him, and that he (Haywood) pro- 
fessed to speak my views. I repeated to him in 
substance what I had just said to Mr. Hannegan and 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 275 

Atchison on this point, and added that some who 
had heard it [him] had said to me that it [he] was al- 
together argumentative, deriving his conclusions 
from his construction of the message & published 
documents. I told him that among others Mr. Bu- 
chanan had informed me that a Senator had in- 
formed him that he so understood it, and that it was 
impossible it could be otherwise, for I had not au- 
thorized him or any one else to speak for me out 
[side] of these documents. Yes, said Mr. Allen, 
that was Senator Dix who had informed Buchanan 
and that he understood it; & added that Haywood 
spoke the sentiments of four Senators who were the 
friends of Gov. Wright 1 of N. York, and repeated 
that the speech was a deliberate attack on him and 
intended to degrade him as chairman of the com- 
mittee on Foreign Affairs. He said he would not 
stand in that position; and that if he had not been 
of his party he would have hewed him down in the 
Senate, but he desired to avoid an outbreak and had 
abstained. I expressed my deep regret at this state 
of things among my political friends, and expressed 
the hope that the difficulty might yet be reconciled. 
I reminded Mr. Allen that when he himself had 
made a speech a few days ago on the Oregon ques- 
tion, he had been interrogated by Senator Johnson 2 
of Maryland to know whether he spoke by my au- 

1 Silas Wright, 1795-1847, Senator from New York 1833— 
1844, Governor of New York 1 844-1 846. 

2 Reverdy Johnson, 1 796-1 876, Senator from Maryland 1845- 
1849, and 1 863-1 868; Attorney General under Taylor, 1849- 
1850. 



2 7 6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Mar. 

thority, and that he had very truly & properly an- 
swered that he did not, but that he spoke from my 
message and the published documents; and that it 
was impossible that Mr. Haywood could have 
spoken from any other authority for I had given 
him none, and that Mr. Haywood would not say 
that he did so. I expressed the hope that the notice 
would be passed, and added that if my political 
friends in the Senate became divided and distracted 
on this question it was certain that the Whigs would 
take advantage of it, and that my administration and 
its usefulness to the country would be destroyed at 
the first session of Congress after its commencement. 
I told Mr. Allen that I had done my duty in the 
recommendations I had made, and it remained for 
Congress to decide upon them. I told him that Mr. 
Haywood had been my personal friend from our 
college days to this time. 

At this stage of the conversation I was sent for 
by Mrs. Polk to go to the parlour to meet company 
who were there. I still remained and the conversa- 
tion continued. I reminded Mr. Allen that in the 
early part of the Session I had consulted him as to 
the course I should pursue, if the Brinish Govern- 
ment should propose the 49 , which I had offered 
last summer, or some proposition equivalent to it, 
and that he had concurred with me that in that 
event it would be my solemn duty to submit such 
proposition confidentially to the Senate in Executive 
Session for their previous advice before I acted. I 
told him I had in like confidence consulted Gen'l 
Cass and one or two other Senators on the same 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 277 

point, who concurred in opinion that I would be 
bound to submit such a proposition to the Senate 
for their advice. I told him that Mr. Haywood, 
with whom my relations had been good from the 
time I was at College with him until this time, had 
held a like confidential conversation with me, and 
I had told him that if such a proposition was made 
such would probably be my course. Mr. Allen 
seemed to be much excited, so much so that I in- 
ferred from his conversation that he might make it 
a personal matter with Mr. Haywood. He declared 
his intention to put the matter right in the Senate 
on monday. At this stage of the interview the con- 
versation was broken off by the appearance of Maj'r 
Andrews & Mrs. Stevenson of Nashville in my office, 
who said they were deputed as a committee from 
the company in the parlour below stairs to wait on 
me & take me down. I invited Mr. Allen to ac- 
company us, but he declined; but before he left I 
agreed to see him on to-morrow at 3 O'Clock, al- 
though not in the habit of seeing company on the 
sabbath. 

I found fifty or more persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
in the parlour; Mr. Demptster, 1 a celebrated musi- 
cian, entertained the company by singing and play- 
ing on the Piano. Among the company I found 
Mr. Hannegan, who had, as I learned, after he left 
my office, gone to Mr. Ritchie's and accompanied 
his daughters back to hear the music. He seemed 

1 William Richardson Dempster, 1809-1871, a popular com- 
poser and ballad singer who set to music many of Tennyson's 
poems. 



278 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Mar. 

to be in a good humour and appeared to enjoy the 
company & entertainment. 

My Private Secretary informed me that he had 
seen Mr. Haywood, who informed him that the 
opinions expressed in his speech in the Senate were 
derived from my message and the Documents and 
not from any other authority from me. 

SUNDAY, 8th March, 1846. — Though somewhat 
indisposed from cold and constant confinement and 
attention to business, I attended the first Presby- 
terian church to-day, in company with Mrs. Polk, 
my niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, Samuel P. 
Caldwell of Tennessee. 

Mr. Edwin Polk of Tennessee was taken ill on 
yesterday, and was quite so to-day. Dr. Miller at- 
tended him. He was confined to his bed all the day. 

At 3 O'Clock P. M. Senator Allen called accord- 
ing to the appointment made last night. The sub- 
ject of the debate in the Senate on thursday last on 
the Oregon question was renewed by him. He was 
still much excited towards Mr. Haywood and 
avowed his intention to vindicate his own honour 
and reputation on the floor of the Senate. The 
whole matter was again talked over, as it was last 
night, in the conversation detailed in yesterday['s] 
diary, with himself and with Mr. Hannegan and 
Mr. Atchison, I repeating to him that no one was 
authorized to speak by authority from me, except 
from the message and published documents. Mr. 
Allen took from his hat a written paper which he 
had prepared, containing what he proposed to say 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 279 

in the Senate. He read it, and as well as I can 
remember from hearing it a single time it was in 
substance that he was authorized to say that I had 
asserted the U. S. title to Oregon up to 54 40' and 
that I had not changed my opinion, and had not 
authorized Mr. Haywood to express any other opin- 
ion: He read it for the purpose of obtaining my 
assent to it. I told him I could give no authority 
to him or any one else to say anything in the Senate ; 
that I had given no such authority to Mr. Haywood 
and I would give none such to him; that I did not 
wish to be involved in the matter & that what he 
said he must say on his own responsibility. I told 
him that his statement as read embraced only a part 
of what I had said in the message, and that all I 
had said in that paper was necessary to a full under- 
standing of my position and opinions. I told him 
he could say what he pleased on his own responsi- 
bility, but not on mine or by my authority. I told 
him I stood on my published opinions and acts, and 
that if I should change these opinions or took any 
further action on the Oregon question, and deemed 
it proper, I would send a message to Congress. He 
seemed to be disappointed that I withheld my as- 
sent. He became however more calm & rational in 
his conversation, and left, I thought, in much better 
feeling than he was last night, or when he came in 
to-day. Judge Mason called about 6 O'Clock & told 
me he had held a long conversation with Mr. Hay- 
wood last night on the subject of his speech in the 
Senate & the debate of thursday, and that Mr. Hay- 
wood had told him that he had in his speech ex- 






28o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Mar. 

pressed his views as he derived them from my 
message & the documents and that he had no other 
authority from me, and that he had so expressly de- 
clared in the speech itself. He said further that 
Mr. Haywood read to him a part of his speech, 
written before it was delivered, to that effect. He 
said that Mr. Haywood had assigned this fact & the 
manner in which the interrogatory was put to him 
in the Senate for not answering it. 

This whole excitement in the Senate has grown 
out of the aspirations of Senators and their friends 
for the Presidency. Mr. Allen has such aspirations 
himself. Mr. Haywood probably prefers Gov. 
Wright of N. York. Gen'l Cass has aspirations but 
is more prudent than some others. Mr. Calhoun 
has aspirations. My fear is that these factions look- 
ing to the election of my successor in 1848, will so 
divide and weaken the Democratic party by their 
feuds as to defeat my measures and render my ad- 
ministration unsuccessful and useless. Each one of 
the factions doubtless desire[s] to use the adminis- 
tration for their own advancement, and out of this 
circumstance has grown the excitement & unfortu- 
nate collision in the Senate. They will all be dis- 
appointed. I am not a candidate for re-election 
myself and will lend myself to none of them. I 
will not be identified with any of them. I will do 
my duty to the country & if my measures fail the 
responsibility shall rest where it belongs. 

MONDAY, Qth March, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock. An unusually large number 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 281 

called, and among them Mr. Senator Jarnigan of 
Tennessee, who held a voluntary conversation on 
the Oregon question, which I heard but to which I 
did not respond, nor did I express any opinion. 
He avowed his intention to vote against Mr. Col- 
quitt's amendment 1 to the Resolution of Notice, and 
to vote for the notice. He said he had differed with 
his Whig colleagues from Tennessee in the House 
& he had told them so. He said he thought we had 
the best title to 54 40', but that would not prevent 
him from agreeing to a compromise at 49 if a 
Treaty should be made, but that he would not vote 
to advise such a Treaty before it was made. These 
declarations were voluntarily made and were not 
elicited or invited by me. 

Mr. Buchanan called on business about 1 O'Clock. 
He made some inquiry about the debate in the 
Senate on thursday. I related to him confidentially 
the conversations I had held on Saturday and on yes- 
terday with Senators Speight, Hannegan, Atchison, 
& Allen. He approved all I had said to them, and 
expressed the opinion that Mr. Haywood ought to 
avow in the Senate that he had no authority from me 
for the opinions he had expressed in his speech. 

Hon. Romulus M. Saunders, En. Ex. & Min. 
Plen. to Spain, called and spent an hour. He ex- 
pressed a desire that the present Secretary of Lega- 
tion should be retained for the present. During the 
last summer I became committed to Mr. Greenhow 
of Richmond to appoint him, if it was agreeable to 
the minister, but only on that condition. I informed 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 466 and 469. 



282 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 Mar. 

Mr. Greenhow at the time that the wishes of the 
minister must be consulted. It is perhaps fortunate 
that the minister desires to retain the present [Sec- 
retary of Legation], because objections to Mr. 
Greenhow which were not known to me last summer 
have been communicated to me by Mr. Haywood 
of the Senate which would make it embarrassing to 
nominate him to the Senate, and if nominated the 
probability is he would be rejected by the Senate. 
Mr. Saunders stated to me to-day that he had under- 
stood some time ago that his habits were not regular. 
He mentioned also that as he passed through Rich- 
mond he learned that a state's warrant had been 
issued against him, and that it was an objection to 
his leaving the country while it was pending. For 
these reasons he will not be appointed. 

TUESDAY, I Oth March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day, all the members present. 
Despatches were received last evening from Mr. 
Slidell, the U. S. Minister to Mexico, which were 
read, and the character of a despatch to be trans- 
mitted to him was agreed upon. 

Mr. Buchanan read the instructions * which he 
had prepared for Mr. Harris, the charge d'affaires 
of the U. States to the Argentine Republic, which 
were considered and agreed to. 

A letter from the Emperor of Morocco to the 
President objecting to Mr. Carr, the U. S. Consul 
appointed during the last year, as not being accepta- 
ble to the Government, and also a letter from Mr. 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI, 442-449. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 283 

Carr were read & considered. It was agreed that 
in consequence of other objections to Mr. Carr, his 
usefulness as consul was impaired if not destroyed, 
and that it was expedient to recal[l] him, as soon 
as it could be done without degrading him. He 
had been imprudent but not guilty of an offence 
which would justify his removal, but that it would 
be impossible to explain this to a Barbarian power 
such as Morocco. It was agreed therefore that as 
soon as Mr. Carr could with propriety be trans- 
ferred to some other office another consul should be 
appointed to Tangiers in his place. 

Some other public matters of minor importance 
were considered. 

Judge Mason remained after the cabinet ad- 
journed. He informed me that he had seen Mr. 
Haywood of N. C. yesterday and again this morn- 
ing, and that Mr. Haywood had informed him that 
he would if necessary take a suitable occasion to 
declare in the Senate that in his speech on the Ore- 
gon question he had not spoken by my authority, 
but from my Message and the published documents 
on the subject. Mr. Mason told me further that 
Col. Benton & Mr. McKay of N. C. as well as 
himself had told Mr. Haywood that it was due to 
me, to himself, and to the public that he should do 
so. Mr. Mason informed me also that Mr. Hay- 
wood was writing out his speech for the press, in 
which he said he had expressly disclaimed having 
spoken by my authority. 

This being reception evening I saw company in 
the parlour. 



284 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [iiMar. 

Wednesday, nth March, 1846. — Saw company 
to-day as usual until 12 O'Clock. At 1 O'Clock I 
gave Mr. Healey, the artist, another sitting for an- 
other Portrait which he desired to take with him to 
France. Another artist, Mr. Debouser [?], was in 
the room at the same time, taking my miniature like- 
ness. I was repeatedly called to my office during 
the sitting by calls of members of my Cabinet on 
business. 

At 2 O'Clock I received Mr. Beaulieu, the Min- 
ister resident from Belgium, who called with the 
Secretary of State to be presented according to Pre- 
vious appointment. The Minister appeared in his 
Court dress, and after delivering to me an address 
to which I responded, he handed to me a letter from 
his sovereign. 

In the course of the morning Col. Benton called 
& introduced his brother-in-law, Gov. McDowell 1 
of Va., who was recently elected a Representative 
in Congress from Va. He, Col. B., informed me 
that he had recent intelligence from the army at 
Corpus Christi representing that great disorganiza- 
tion existed in the camp, growing out of a contest 
among the officers concerning lineal and brevet rank, 
which he wished to bring to my attention, and de- 
sired to know at what time I could see him on the 
subject. I appointed 8 O'Clock this evening. At 
that hour Col. Benton called, and after reading to 
me a letter from Col. Hitchcock, and a memorial 
of more than 100 officers of the army at Corpus 

1 James McDowell, 1 795-1 851, Governor of Virginia 1843- 
1845, Representative from Virginia 1845-185 1. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 285 

Christi calling upon Congress to settle by legisla- 
tion the question in dispute between lineal and brevet 
rank, Col. B. said that the Committee on Military 
affairs in the Senate of which he was chairman were 
unanimously of opinion that no legislation was neces- 
sary, but that the President as commander in chief 
of the Army possessed the power by a General Order 
to settle it. He called my attention to a General 
Order issued by President Jackson on the 13th of 
August, 1829, when the same question had arisen. 
Gen'l Jackson by that order had decided in favour 
of giving command to lineal over brevet officers. 
The present difficulty had grown out of a letter by 
Gen'l Scott during the month of Nov. last, in favour 
of brevet over lineal rank. Col. Benton was clear 
in the opinion that Gen'l Jackson's orders should 
be re-affirmed, and that all orders or opinions sub- 
sequently issued or expressed by Gen'l Scott or 
others in conflict with Gen'l Jackson's order of 1829 
should be abrogated and annulled. Concurring with 
him in opinion I told him it should be done. This 
subject being disposed of the Oregon question was 
introduced, and I remarked to Col. Benton that I 
regretted the division and excitement which seemed 
to prevail among the Democratic Senators on the 
subject of the form of the notice. I told him I re- 
gretted also that instead of discussing the recom- 
mendations of my message and the opinions expressed 
in that paper and the published correspondence, the 
debate seemed to have taken a strange direction; that 
instead of examining and discussing my views as 
communicated in these documents, Senators had been 



286 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Mar. 

guessing or conjecturing what I might do hereafter, 
and were approving or condemning what they sup- 
posed I might or might not do. I told him that 
no one was authorized to speak for me out of the 
message and documents ; that these were of course 
fair subjects of criticism and construction. He con- 
curred in these views, and expressed himself freely 
on the course of Senators Allen & Calhoun and 
some others, which he condemned. He expressed 
a fear that Senator Colquitt's proposition about no- 
tice would pass by the votes of a few democrats (Mr. 
Calhoun & others) and the united Whig party, and 
that the only way to defeat it was to take Senator 
Crittenden's proposition. 1 I told him I had but an 
indistinct recollection of the terms of Senator Crit- 
tenden's proposition, having read it casually when it 
appeared in the City Newspapers. He urged me 
to examine [it] and if I approved it to speak to 
some of my friends in the Senate and induce them 
to accept it. I told him I would examine it on the 
morrow. 

The general question of Oregon was then the sub- 
ject of conversation. He said he would support a 
Treaty dividing the country on the 49th parallel of 
latitude, or some settlement which would make the 
49 the basis. I told him in the present state of the 
matter I would make no proposition, but I would 

1 John J. Crittenden, 1 787-1 863, Attorney General under Har- 
rison and under Taylor and Fillmore. His proposition was that 
the President at his discretion should give notice to Great Britain 
of the termination of the joint occupancy of Oregon. Globe, 
29 Cong. 1 Sess. 351. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 287 

say to him confidentially that if the parallel of 49 
was offered, or that parallel with perhaps a modifi- 
cation surrendering the Southern cap[e] of Van- 
couver's Island to Great Brittain, my present im- 
pression was that it would be my duty to submit it 
to the Senate for their previous advice before I 
acted on it. This he decidedly approved. I told 
him if Great Brittain offered 49 and insisted on the 
perpetual free navigation of the Columbia River, I 
would reject it without submitting it to the Senate. 
I told him I would never surrender the perpetual 
free navigation of that River, but that if the Navi- 
gation was desired for a term of 7 or 10 years to 
enable the Hudson's Bay company to wind up their 
business that would not be important, and such a 
proposition might be submitted to the Senate for 
their advice. In these views he concurred. I told 
Col. B. that these suggestions were made to him very 
confidentially, and not [to] be used or spoken of in 
any way, for if no such proposition were made it 
would never be necessary to act upon it. Col. B. 
was in a pleasant temper and spoke in a kind spirit. 

Thursday, 12th March, 1846. — Saw company 
as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. 

Mr. Buchanan called and read the despatch to 
Mr. Slidell which he had prepared in pursuance of 
the agreement in Cabinet on tuesday last. Some 
modification, not on any important point, was made 
at my suggestion. 

I told Mr. Buchanan of the conversation I had 
held with Col. Benton, particularly in regard to the 



288 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Mar. 

form of the notice. I turned to the proposition of 
notice offered by Mr. Crittenden, which Col. Benton 
had expressed a desire I should examine. Some 
parts of the preamble we both thought exception- 
able; the resolution itself with some modification we 
thought might do. The most objectionable part of 
the Resolution was that which proposed to postpone 
the time of giving the notice till after the close of the 
present Session of Congress. It was agreed that 
Mr. Buchanan should consult Senators Cass and 
Allen and see if any modification of it could be 
made which would unite the Democratic Senators. 
I had 30 or 40 persons, members of Congress & 
citizens, to dine with me to-day. 

Friday, ijth March, 1846. — Saw company until 
12 O'Clock to-day. The Senate was not in session 
today & several senators called after 12 O'Clock. 
Mr. Seddon of Va. of the Ho. Repts., accompanied 
by Mr. Robert G. Scott, called and enquired my 
opinion upon the Harbour Bill now before the Ho. 
Repts., & particularly to know if an appropriation 
were inserted in it to improve James River below 
Richmond, whether it would in my opinion be sub- 
ject to any constitutional objection; Mr. Seddon re- 
marking at the same time that he would vote against 
the whole bill. I told them that I had not examined 
the item they mentioned for James River nor those 
in the Bill with care, but that I must remain wholly 
uncommitted on the subject, should the Bill pass 
Congress & be presented to me for my signature. 
Some general conversation took place on the subject 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 289 

of Internal Improvements. I told them that when 
in Congress I had voted against all such bills; that 
the question as to harbours was attended with its 
difficulties and that I must remain uncommitted until 
called to act. 

Saturday, 14th March, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members 
present. Several public subjects were considered, 
but none of special interest. Mr. Buchanan told 
me he had seen Mr. Allen & Mr. Cass concerning 
Mr. Crittendon's proposition of notice, as it was 
understood he would do in our conversation on 
thursday. He said that they agreed with him & 
myself that a part of the Preamble was decidedly 
objectionable. He simply mentioned this fact, but 
went into no further detail of his conversation with 
them. Senator Lewis called after night and held a 
long conversation on the subject of the Oregon ques- 
tion, and the notice. I told him as I had others that 
my opinions were to be found in the message and pub- 
lished correspondence; that these were fair subjects 
of discussion; but that it was improper to declare 
what I might or might not do hereafter; that if any 
proposition was made by Great Brittain, I would 
be responsible for whatever action I might take upon 
it. I urged the giving of the notice, and told him 
the divisions and excitement which had grown up in 
the Senate were well calculated to weaken & embar- 
rass the Executive. He seemed to be much excited 
at the course of Mr. Allen, Mr. Hannegan, and 
others on the subject; approved Mr. Haywood's 



2 9 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Mar. 

speech as [and] said Mr. H. had not professed to 
speak for me, except from the message and docu- 
ments. The conversation then turned on the tariff. 

Hon. Romulus M. Saunders of N. C, Minister to 
Spain, called & informed me that he had told Mr. 
Greenhow of Richmond that he had expressed to 
me his desire to retain Mr. Livingston, the present 
Secretary of Legation in Spain, and that he (Mr. 
Greenhow) would not be appointed. 

My brother-in-law, John W. Childress of Ten- 
nessee, who had spent near two weeks on a visit and 
been a part of my family during the time, left this 
evening for home. 

SUNDAY, 15th March, 1846. — My Private Secre- 
tary, J. Knox Walker, had an increase of his family 
by the birth of a daughter about 3 O'Clock this 
morning, as I learned from the family. 

Attended the first Presbyterian church to-day in 
company with Mrs. Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, 
and my relation, Mr. Edwin Polk of Bolivar, Ten- 
nessee. 

MONDAY, 16th March, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock today, as usual. At 2 O'Clock 
P. M. gave Mr. Healy another sitting for my por- 
trait. Mr. Debosier was also present taking my 
miniature. These sittings for artists are becoming 
very irksome and fatiguing, and I think I will not 
again yield my consent to sit for any other, at all 
events during the Session of Congress when my time 
is necessarily so much occupied by my official duties. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 291 

TUESDAY, 17th March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting today; all the members present. 
Mr. Buchanan read the draft of a message x which 
he had prepared and which he proposed I should 
send to Congress, on the subject of discriminating 
duties which had been levied by Great Brittain on 
American rough rice imported into England in vio- 
lation of the Commercial convention of 1815 be- 
tween the two countries; and the discriminating 
duties which had been collected by the U. S. under 
the tariff act of 1842. The proposition to send a 
message was approved by the Cabinet. The draft 
of the message & the correspondence between Mr. 
Pakenham & Mr. Buchanan on the subjects and 
other documents were left with me for my examina- 
tion. No other business of importance was brought 
before the Cabinet. 

At 5 O'Clock P. M. between 70 & 100 members 
of the Methodist Protestant church, now holding a 
conference in this City, called on me in a body. On 
receiving them a short address was delivered to me 
by one of their members, to which I responded. 

Wednesday, 18th March, 1846. — Saw company 
today until 12 O'Clock. After my doors were 
closed Mr. Senator Crittenden of Kentucky was an- 
nounced, & I received him. He called to introduce 
some of his friends from Kentucky, a Mr. & Mrs. 
Jones, whom he remarked very pleasantly were good 
Democrats. Shortly after Mr. Crittenden retired, 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI, 427-428. 



292 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Mar. 

Mr. Senator Webster of Massachusetts called and 
introduced Mr. Harvey of Boston. 

At 2 O'Clock I gave Mr. Healy, the artist, another 
sitting to take my portrait. Mr. Debousier was also 
present taking my miniature. Mrs. Polk had given 
them a sitting in the morning for her Portrait & 
miniature. 

After night several Senators & representatives 
called. Among them Mr. C. J. Ingersoll, Ch. Com. 
of Foreign affairs of the Ho. Repts., [who] wished 
to consult me in relation to our relations with Mex- 
ico. I learned tonight that Commodore Crane of 
the U. S. Navy, committed suicide in his office in 
the Navy Department this afternoon. 

Thursday, igth March, 1846. — Saw company 
to-day until 12 O'Clock. Many ladies as well as 
gentlemen called. After 12 O'Clock saw the Secre- 
taries of State and the Navy on business, and dis- 
posed of many small matters of business on my table. 
At 2]/ 2 O'Clock P. M. rode out with Mrs. Polk, and 
visited West['s] painting 1 of Christ Healing the sick, 
now exhibiting at the Baptist church in this city; 
visited also Mr. Healy's full length portrait of Mr. 
Guizot, the present prime minister of France, now 
deposited in the American Institute, in the building 
occupied by the Patent Office. 

Received notes from Mr. Senator Lewis & Mr. 
Dickins, Secretary of the Senate, requesting me to 

1 Benjamin West, famous painter, 1738-1820. His " Christ 
Healing the Sick in the Temple" was painted in 1802; a copy 
hangs in the Pennsylvania Hospital at Philadelphia. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 293 

withhold the Commission of Mr. Isaac H. Wright 
as Navy Agent at Boston, of whose confirmation I 
was officially notified on yesterday. Mr. Dickins 
called at 5 O'Clock and stated to me that the nom- 
ination had not in fact been confirmed, but that the 
notification of his confirmation had been sent to me 
on yesterday by a mistake of himself and his clerks. 
He requested me to return the notification to him, 
stating that the error had been fully explained in 
Executive Session of the Senate to-day. I had sent 
the notification to the Navy Department to have a 
commission made out, but will send for it and re- 
turn it to the Secretary of the Senate on to-morrow. 

FRIDAY, 20th March, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until about 11 O'Clock, when I learned from 
Mr. Heiss, one of the proprietors of the Union, that 
he had received by express the European news by the 
Steamer which had just arrived. He handed to me 
14 Welmer & Smith's European Times " of the 4th 
of March, 1846. I closed my office in a few minutes 
and read to the Attorney General and Secretary of 
State the news contained in the paper. 

At 2 O'Clock P. M. I gave Mr. Healy & Mr. 
Debousier another sitting for my portrait and minia- 
ture. 

At 8 O'Clock received visitors informally in the 
parlour. Forty or fifty persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called; among them the Russian Minister, the Sec- 
retary of State and the Secretary of the Navy and 
several members of Congress. These informal re- 
ception evenings twice a week (on Tuesdays & fri- 



294 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Mar. 

days) are very pleasant, and afford me moreover an 
opportunity to devote the other evenings of the week 
to business. 

SATURDAY, 2 1st March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except the Attorney General. Despatches received 
by the last Steamer from our Ministers at London 
and Paris were read, from which it appears, as I 
had apprehended, that the delay of Congress to act 
upon the recommendations of my message on the 
Oregon question had operated prejudicially in Eng- 
land. 

The Senate of the U. S. passed on the 17th Inst, 
a Resolution l calling upon the President to know 
whether in his opinion an " increase of our Naval 
and military force " was " at this time " necessary. 
This Resolution was brought up for consideration, 
and I read to the Cabinet the draft of a message in 
reply to the call which I had prepared, expressing 
the opinion that as a precautionary measure such in- 
crease was proper. The subject was discussed, and 
the Cabinet were unanimous in the opinion that the 
Resolution should be answered, and that the views 
contained in the message which I had prepared were 
proper. One or two additional points were sug- 
gested by members of the Cabinet as proper to be 
embraced in the message. It was agreed that the 
draft of the message should be revised, and as it was 

1 Globe, 29 Cong, i Sess. 510. The President's message is in 
Moore, Buchanan, VI, 428-431; also S. Doc. 248, 29 Cong. 1 

Sess. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 29s 

deemed important that it should be communicated 
to Congress on monday next, it was agreed that a 
special meeting of the Cabinet should be held to- 
morrow night at my office. Mr. Buchanan at my 
request took my draft of the message for examina- 
tion, and to make any suggestions which might occur 
to him as being proper. The Cabinet dispersed 
about iy 2 O'Clock, and at ^/ 2 O'Clock Mr. Bu- 
chanan returned to my office with a new draft em- 
bodying substantially what I had written, but making 
the draft more warlike than I had done. He left 
both drafts with me. I sent for the Attorney Gen'l 
(who had been detained at his office on official busi- 
ness) and informed him of w T hat had transpired. I 
requested his attendance at the special meeting of 
the Cabinet to be held to-morrow night. 

I saw at different times to-day and to-night Mr. 
Douglass 1 of Illinois, Mr. Tibbatts 2 of Ky., Mr. 
Stanton, and Mr. Chase 3 of Tennessee, and urged 
upon all [of] them the great importance of acting 
promptly upon the recommendations of my annual 
message in relation to Oregon. I called to their 
recollection that the Democratic party were in a 
decided majority in both Houses of Congress, that 
nearly four months of the Session had expired, that 
very little had been done, and that the Democratic 

1 Stephen A. Douglas, Representative from Illinois 1 843-1 847, 
Senator 1847-1861. 

2 John W. Tibbatts, 1802-1852, Representative from Kentucky 
1 843-1 847. 

3 Lucien B. Chase, 18 17-1864, Representative from Tennessee 
1 845-1 849. 



29 6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Mar. 

party would be held responsible by the country for 
the delay, and for the failure by Congress to act 
upon these and the recommendations of the message 
on other subjects. I told them that I desired Con- 
gress to approve or disapprove of my measures as 
recommended in my annual Message, and that I 
thought it important that they should act promptly 
upon them. Each of them promised me that they 
would set to work and if possible induce the Ho. 
of Repts. to do so. 

SUNDAY, 22nd March, 1846.— Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my two nieces, Miss Rucker and Miss 
Walker. 

My nephew, Samuel P. Caldwell of Tennessee, 
who has been for some time a member of my family, 
received a letter today informing him that his father, 
who had been ill for some time, was not expected to 
survive for many days, and containing a request 
from his mother that he should immediately return. 
The letter was from Dr. Harris of Whiteville, Ten- 
nessee, one of the attending physicians of his father. 
He received the letter at 3 O'Clock P. M. and left 
for home by the cars at 5 O'Clock P. M. 

Between 7 & 8 O'Clock P. M. the members of 
the Cabinet came in, agreeably to the understanding 
on yesterday. The subject of the message to the 
Senate in answer to their Resolution of the 17th 
Instant, being that on which they had convened, was 
taken up. I had made some modifications of my 
own & Mr. Buchanan's draft, which he had fur- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 297 

nished me on last evening as stated in yesterday's 
Diary. A long discussion took place on the several 
paragraphs of the two drafts. Mr. Buchanan 
seemed wholly to have changed the tone he had held 
during the whole of last year on the Oregon question. 
Up to within a recent period he had been most anx- 
ious to settle the dispute on the parallel of 49 ° and 
had often declared that he would take the whole 
responsibility of such a settlement. Some of the dis- 
cussions showing this fact are recorded in this diary, 
and will be remembered by the whole Cabinet. He 
[his] dread of War & anxiety to avoid it by a com- 
promise has been often expressed to me, in and out 
of the Cabinet. He recently mentioned to me, that 
Gen'l Cass, he thought, was making political capital 
by insisting on our extreme rights on the question, 
and [by] his course in favour of warlike prepara- 
tions. Within a few days past it is pretty manifest 
to me, that Mr. Buchanan has manifested a decided 
change of his position, and a disposition to be war- 
like. His object, I think, is to supersede Gen'l Cass 
before the country, and to this motive I attribute his 
change of tone and the warlike character of his 
draft of my proposed message. I think he is gov- 
erned by his own views of his chances for the Presi- 
dency. It is a great misfortune that a member of 
the Cabinet should be an aspirant for the Presidency, 
because I cannot rely upon his honest and disinter- 
ested advice, and the instance before me is clear evi- 
dence of this. 

Among other things which Mr. Buchanan and 
Mr. Walker (and the latter has probably Presiden- 



29 8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Mar. 

tial aspirations) desired to have inserted in the mes- 
sage, was an implied but strong censure of the Senate 
for not having passed the notice. This paragraph 
was opposed by Mr. Bancroft and Mr. Mason. I 
expressed myself against it as not within the scope 
of the call of the Senate, as unnecessary, and as 
bringing me in collision with the Senate. I agreed 
that the delay to pass the notice was censurable, and 
had embarrassed the question, but thought it was not 
my duty or my province to lecture the Senate for it. 
Its insertion in the message was first suggested by 
Mr. Walker on yesterday, and was interlined in my 
draft for consideration merely, and not because I 
was willing to adopt it. After the discussion I re- 
marked to the Cabinet that I would take both drafts 
and prepare a message, but was not certain that my 
engagements on to-morrow would enable me to do 
so in time to send it to the Senate before tuesday. 
I will preserve the two original drafts, my own and 
Mr. Buchanan's, for future reference if need be. 
I regret the necessity of holding this Cabinet meet- 
ing on the evening of the sabbath day, but at the 
time it was agreed upon, it [was] deemed important 
to do so. 

MONDAY, 23rd March, 1846. — Saw an unusually 
large number of visitors to-day up to 12 O'Clock 
when I closed my doors. After being occupied in 
indispensible official business until 2 O'Clock P. M., 
I took up the Subject of the proposed message to 
Congress in answer to their Resolution of the 17th 
Instant, which had been discussed at the Cabinet 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 299 

meetings on Saturday and last evening. I prepared 
a new draft of a message, embodying substantially 
what was in my first draft and not adopting the 
strong language of Mr. Buchanan's draft, and leav- 
ing out the proposed censure on the Senate for not 
having passed the notice on the Oregon question. 

At 6 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Bancroft, who had been 
invited to do so, called. I submitted to him the 
new draft which I had prepared. He approved it, 
and made one or two suggestions, particularly quota- 
tions from General Washington's writings. Mr. 
Bancroft voluntarily mentioned to me the manifest 
change of Mr. Buchanan's tone and position on the 
Oregon question, which he had observed within a 
few days past. He attributed it, as I did, to his 
aspirations to the Presidency. About 8 O'Clock 
P. M. Mr. Senator Allen called, as I had requested 
my Private Secretary to request him to do. As 
chairman of the committee of Foreign Relations in 
the Senate, I thought it proper to apprise him 
of the message which I intended to send in answer to 
the call of the Senate. I did so and read to him 
my revised draft of it. I asked him if he saw any 
objection to it, and he said he did not, but thought 
it proper to send it in. 

He introduced the subject of Mr. Haywood's late 
speech 1 on the Oregon question, and taking the Na- 
tional Intelligencer newspaper from his pocket, read 
a part of it which related to him (Mr. Allen), and 
said it did him great injustice. He was still dissatis- 

1 Speech of March 4 and 5, 1846. Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 
App. 369-378. 



300 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Mar. 



fied with Mr. Haywood, & repeated much of what 
he had said on a former occasion about him. I ex- 
pressed my sincere regret at the state of feeling be- 
tween him & Mr. Haywood, as they were both my 
friends. Mr. Allen said he would be willing to give 
bond and security that he would not be a candidate 
for the Presidency in '48, and he added that he was 
not acting a part to support Gen'l Cass's pretensions, 
& indicated clearly that he was not in favour of Cass. 
He then adverted to my position if Great Brittain 
should return upon me the offer of 49 ° which I had 
made last summer as a compromise of the Oregon 
question; and admitted that he had said to me in the 
early part of the Session that if the offer of 49 was 
returned upon me I ought to submit it to the Senate 
for their previous advice before I acted upon it. He 
however insisted that I ought to accompany such sub- 
mission to the Senate with a decided declaration of 
my own opinion against its acceptance, but declaring 
that if twothirds of the Senate advised otherwise, I 
would conform my action to their advice. I told 
him I was still of the same opinion I had been at the 
early part of the Session, of which I had informed 
him at that time, and that was that if 49 or its equiv- 
alent [was offered] I would submit it to the Senate 
for their previous advice, but did not inform him 
what message I [would] accompany the submission 
with, further than the remark that I would probably 
reiterate what I had said in my annual message. I 
told him if such an event happened I would show 
him my message before I sent it in to the Senate. 
Between 10 & 11 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Allen retired. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 301 

TUESDAY, 24th March, 1846.— I revised the draft 
of my message this morning before breakfast, and 
about 9 O'Clock A. M. gave it to my Private Secre- 
tary to copy. The Cabinet held a regular meeting 
to-day, all the members present. As soon as my 
Private Secretary had finished copying the message l 
I read it to the Cabinet. No alteration was made 
except a verbal one. I signed it & sent it to the 
Senate. 

No other measure of importance came up for con- 
sideration in the Cabinet, and about 1 O'Clock it 
adjourned. I occupied the balance of the day until 
evening in disposing of the business on my table. 
This was one of the informal reception evenings 
& near one hundred persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. 

Wednesday, 25th March, 1846. — Saw a large 
number of visitors to-day. Among them was John 
Ross 2 ; and a delegation of Cherokees [who] called 
on the business of their Tribe. I held a few minutes 
conversation with them, and received from them cer- 
tain papers which they delivered to me relating to 
the existing difficulties among the Cherokees. In 
a short time after they retired, The Secretary of 
War and [the] Commissioner of Indian affairs called 
& consulted me in reference to the Cherokee diffi- 
culties. The Commissioner informed me that he 

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 426. 

2 John Ross, 1 790-1 866, principal chief of the Cherokee nation 
and a leading opponent of the sale of the land of the tribe to the 
United States in 1828. 



302 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Mar. 

would have his Report on the subject prepared & 
ready to submit to me in a few days. 

A delegation of the Tonawanda band of the Six 
Nations of Indians of New York called and held a 
talk with me in relation to the business of their Tribe, 
in the presence of the Secretary of War & the com- 
missioner of Indian affairs. I informed them that 
the Secretary of War & [the] Commissioner of In- 
dian affairs would attend to their business, and after 
they had investigated it I would, if the delegation de- 
sired it, see them again on the subject. 

Four Englishmen who were of the Society of 
friends called. They were intelligent men and in- 
formed me that they had just returned from a tour 
through Indiana & some other of the Western States 
and that they would soon return to England. They 
expressed their great desire that peace should be pre- 
served between the U. S. & Great Brittain. Thev 
said they spoke as christians and not as Englishmen 
or partisans or politicians. They urged the great im- 
portance of suppressing the African slave trade, and 
one of them had commenced speaking on the subject 
of slavery as it existed in this country, but was inter- 
rupted by company coming in. I treated them 
courteously. Among others who came in while they 
were in my office was Gen'l Waddy Thompson, 1 
former minister of the U. S. to Mexico. The four 
Englishmen left shortly afterwards. Gen'l Thomp- 
son expressed a desire to make a communication to 
me on Mexican affairs which he deemed important, 

1 Representative from South Carolina 1 835-1 841, minister to 
Mexico 1 842-1 844, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 303 

and I appointed to meet him at my office at 12 
O'Clock on friday next. 

At 2 O'Clock P. M. I gave Mr. Healy & Mr. De- 
bousier another sitting for my portrait and miniature. 
Mrs. Polk gave them a sitting for her likeness this 
forenoon. These sittings are becoming exceedingly 
fatiguing to me, and I think I cannot be induced to 
sit for any other artist during the Session of Congress. 

About 8 O'Clock P. M. Mr. C. J. Ingersoll & Mr. 
Cullum ! happened to call at my office near the same 
time. Among other things the policy of moving an 
appropriation in the House placing a million of dol- 
lars at my command to be used in effecting an adjust- 
ment of our differences with Mexico, was the sub- 
ject of conversation. I had some days ago suggested 
it to Mr. Ingersoll who is chairman of the committee 
of Foreign affairs of the Ho. Repts., & he had fa- 
voured it. We agreed that it was important that 
such an appropriation should be made, & I left it to 
their discretion to move it or not as they might judge 
best. The conversation was strictly confidential. 

Thursday, 26th March, 1846. — After receiving 
company as usual to-day up to 12 O'Clock I closed 
my doors and was busily occupied the balance of the 
day in disposing of the business on my table. Among 
other things which engaged my attention, Mr. Mor- 
rison of Memphis, Tennessee, called and delivered 
to me a letter from Mr. Stanton of the Ho. Repts. 
complaining that the work on the Memphis Navy 
Yard had been so long delayed, and was likely to be 

1 Alvan Cullom, Representative from Tennessee 1 843-1 847. 



3o 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Mar. 

delayed much longer. I sent for Mr. Bancroft and 
expressed to him my strong conviction that the work 
on the Yard should be speedily commenced and 
prosecuted to its completion. I urged upon him the 
public importance of closing a contract with some 
responsible bidder at the lowest cost for the execu- 
tion of the work, or of causing it to be executed un- 
der the superintendance of the Engineers or agents 
of the Government. Mr. Bancroft said he would 
give his immediate attention to the subject. Where- 
upon I called in Mr. Morrison, whom I had re- 
quested to wait in my Private Secretary's room. Mr. 
Bancroft had some conversation with him and re- 
quested him to call at the Navy Department in the 
course of one or two hours. About 4 O'Clock P. M. 
I saw Mr. Bancroft and learned from him that he 
had conferred with Mr. Morrison & Commodore 
Warrington, 1 who was at the head of the Bureau 
having charge of the subject, and had caused the 
necessary orders to be issued for the execution of the 
work, and that Mr. Morrison would take authority 
home with him to carry the orders into effect. 

About 7 O'Clock Mr. Buchanan submitted to me 
instructions which he had prepared to [for] Mr. 
Mann 2 (who is to go to Europe as a bearer of de- 
spatches by the next Steamer which will sail on the 
1st proximo) to conclude a commercial Treaty with 

1 Lewis Warrington of Virginia, Chief of Bureau of Yards and 
Docks 1 842-1 846. 

2 A. Dudley Mann. His instructions are in Moore, Buchanan, 
VI, 434: the treaty is in U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 857-868. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 305 

the Kingdom of Hanover. I approved the instruc- 
tions. 

The Hon. Mr. Rusk, 1 one of the Senators from the 
State of Texas, I learned took his seat in the Senate 
of the United States to-day. 

Friday, 27th March, 1846. — Company called to- 
day as usual until 12 O'Clock, when I closed my 
doors. Among others Maj'r John H. Bills of Bol- 
iver, Tennessee, called with his daughter, Mary, on 
his return to Tennessee from the North. His daugh- 
ter had been at school in Pennsylvania. Being my 
relations I invited them to take rooms in the Presi- 
dential mansion and they did so. 

I was engaged until 2 O'Clock in disposing of the 
business on my table, when I gave Mr. Healy and 
Mr. Debousier another sitting for my portrait and 
miniature. At 8 O'Clock P. M., this being recep- 
tion evening, I received company in the parlour. 
More than an hundred persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. Among them was Gen'l Rusk, the Senator 
recently elected from the new State of Texas. 

Saturday, 28th March, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. After some unimportant matters of business 
were disposed of I brought before the Cabinet the 
State of our relations with Mexico. Despatches re- 
ceived from Mr. Slidell rendered it probable that he 
would very soon be received by the existing Govern- 
ment of Mexico in his character of Minister of the 

1 Thomas Jefferson Rusk, 1 802-1 856, Senator from Texas 
1 846-1 856. 



3 o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Mar. 

U. States. I stated to the Cabinet that I apprehended 
that the greatest obstacle to the conclusion of a Treaty 
of boundary, such as he had been instructed if prac- 
ticable to procure, would be the want of authority to 
make a prompt payment of money at the time of sign- 
ing it. The Government of Gen'l Paredes, having 
recently overthrown that of President Herrera, was a 
military Government and depended for its contin- 
uance in power upon the allegiance of the army un- 
der his command, and by which he had been enabled 
to effect the late revolution. It was known that the 
Government of Paredes was in great need of money, 
and that in consequence of the deficiencies in the 
Treasury and the deranged state of the finances, the 
army upon whose support Gen'l Paredes depended 
to uphold him in power, being badly fed and clothed 
and without pay, might and probably would soon de- 
sert him, unless money could be obtained to supply 
their wants. I stated that if our minister could be 
authorized upon the signing of the Treaty to pay 
down a half a million or a million of dollars, it would 
enable Gen'l Paredes to pay, feed, and clothe the 
army, and maintain himself in power until the Treaty 
could be ratified by the U. S., and the subsequent in- 
stallments which might be stipulated in the Treaty 
be paid. Indeed I thought that the prompt payment 
of such a sum might induce him to make a Treaty, 
which he would not otherwise venture to make. In 
these views there seemed to be a concurrence. The 
question followed how an appropriation could be 
obtained from Congress without exposing to the pub- 
lic and to Foreign Governments its object. That ob 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 307 

ject, as may be seen from Mr. Slidell's instructions, 
would be in adjusting a boundary to procure a cession 
of New Mexico & California, & if possible all North 
of latitude 32 from the Passo [El Paso] on the Del 
Norte & West to the Pacific ocean; or if that pre- 
cise boundary cannot be obtained, then the next best 
boundary which might be practicable so as at all 
events to include all the country East of the Del 
Norte and the Bay of San Francisco. For the 
boundary desired, see Mr. Slidell's instructions. 1 
The Cabinet thought it important that Mr. Slidell 
should have the command of the money to make a 
prompt payment on the Signature of the Treaty. 
Mr. Buchanan thought it impracticable to procure 
such an appropriation from Congress, and was disin- 
clined to favour any effort to obtain it. I suggested 
that in informal consultations with leading Senators 
it could be ascertained whether such an appropriation 
could pass that body, and expressed the opinion that 
if it could pass the Senate, it could be passed 
through the Ho. of Repts. I called their at- 
tention to an act 2 appropriating two millions, 
which had been passed in 1806 in Mr. Jef- 
ferson's administration. I afterwards learned that 
this appropriation had been passed to enable Mr. 
Jefferson to purchase the Floridas. Mr. Buchanan 
had still no confidence in the success of such a move- 
ment; but finally agreed, as did all the other members 
of the Cabinet, that I should consult Col. Benton, 

1 H. Ex. Doc. 60, 30 Cong. 1 Sess. 

2 Approved February 13, 1806. Annals of Cong., 9 Cong. I 
Sess. App. 1226-1227. 



3 o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Mar. 

Mr. Allen, Gen'l Cass, and, if I chose, other Sena- 
tors on the subject. As soon as the Cabinet ad- 
journed I sent my Private Secretary to request Col. 
Benton to call on me at 8 O'Clock this evening. At 
that hour Col. Benton called & I explained to him 
fully my views and object. He at once concurred 
with me in the importance of obtaining if practi- 
cable such a boundary as I proposed, and in the pro- 
priety of such an appropriation by Congress to en- 
able me to do it. I suggested to him that it might 
be proper, if the subject was brought forward in the 
Senate, that it should be first considered in Execu- 
tive Session of the Senate, and if it was deemed 
proper by the Senate, it should be afterwards moved 
in open Session and passed without debate. In this 
he also concurred. I turned his attention to the act 
of 1806, passed in Mr. Jefferson's time, and to the 
practice of Congress in placing a secret service fund 
at the discretion of the President. After a very free 
conversation, and finding that there was a concur- 
rence of views, I told Col. Benton that I would con- 
sult Mr. Allen, Ch. of the Committee of Foreign Re- 
lations, on the subject. This he thought would be 
proper, and he suggested that I should consult Gen'l 
Cass and Mr. Haywood also, and perhaps some 
Southern Senator. I told [him] I would do so, and 
see him again on the subject. Col. B. entered very 
fully into all my views. 

I showed Col. Benton an endorsement made by 
Gen'l Scott of the army on a letter from Gen'l Worth 
on the subject of brevet rank and my order of the 
1 2th Instant. Col. B. thought, as I did, that Gen'l 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 309 

Scott's endorsement on the letter was highly excep- 
tionable and amounted to insubordination. The 
letter and the endorsement made on it by Gen'l Scott 
was laid by him before the Secretary of War, and by 
the Secretary of War communicated to me. Col. B. 
said there was no use for the commander in chief of 
the army at Washington, and he advised that he 
should be forthwith ordered to some post on the 
Northern frontier, as a merited rebuke for his re- 
sistance of my order of the 12th Instant, and other 
exceptionable matter in his endorsement on Gen'l 
Worth's letter. This he thought would be the mild- 
est punishment which should be inflicted. 

SUNDAY, 2Qth March, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my relations, Maj'r John H. Bills and his 
daughter Mary of Bolivar, Tennessee. 

At 6 O'Clock this evening Gen'l Samuel Hous- 
ton, 1 late President of Texas and now a Senator in 
Congress, called. I was much pleased to see him, 
having been with him in Congress twenty years ago 
and always his friend. I found him thoroughly 
Democratic and fully determined to support my ad- 
ministration. 

At 8 O'Clock Mr. Senator Allen called & I con- 
sulted him fully in relation to our Mexican policy, 
and especially in reference to the adjustment of a 
boundary. I explained to him my views fully, as I 
had done to Col. Benton on last evening (see Diary of 

President of Texas 1 841-1844, Senator from Texas 1846- 
1859. 



310 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Mar. 

yesterday). He fully concurred with Col. Benton 
and myself. He entered fully into the importance 
of procuring from Congress the appropriation sug- 
gested of one or two Millions, to be placed at my dis- 
posal for the purpose of enabling Mr. Slidell to ne- 
gotiate such a Treaty if it was practicable. At my 
request he agreed to see Col. Benton on the subject, 
and advised me to see Gen'l Cass, and he inclined to 
think that I should consult Mr. Calhoun also. He 
entered as fully as Col. Benton had done on yester- 
day into the propriety of making such a movement. 
On examining the laws, it was found that an appro- 
priation of $2,000,000 had been made in 1803, 1 to 
enable Mr. Jefferson to purchase Louisiana; and that 
Mr. Jefferson in his message of October, 1803, had 
referred to this law as giving the sanction of Con- 
gress to the Treaty which he subsequently made pur- 
chasing Louisiana; so that there was a precedent in 
1803 as we ^ as m x 8o6, as mentioned in yesterday's 
Diary, for such a procedure. 

MONDAY, 30th March, 1846. — Saw company un- 
til 12 O'Clock to-day as usual. Among others I saw 
and had a free conversation with Gen'l Cass on the 
subject of our relations with Mexico, in substance of 
the same import with the conversation I had held 
with Col. Benton on Saturday and Mr. Allen on yes- 
terday. He fully concurred with me and with them 
in the importance of procuring an appropriation 

Approved February 26, 1803. Annals of Cong., 7 Cong. 2 
Sess. A pp. 1560. Message of October 17, 1803, ibid, 8 Cong. 
1 Sess. 11-15. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 311 

from Congress such as was made in 1803 & 1806, 
placing at the President's disposal at least a million 
of dollars to enable him to negotiate a [treaty] with 
Mexico and to procure the boundary desired. For a 
more full statement of the object of the appropriation 
and the manner of procuring it from Congress so as 
not to expose it to the knowledge of Foreign Govern- 
ments, and especially that of Great Brittain, I refer 
to this diary of yesterday and the day before. I told 
Gen'l Cass that I had consulted Col. Benton and Mr. 
Allen, and he advised me to consult Mr. Calhoun 
also. He left me with the understanding that he 
would consult with Col. Benton and Mr. Allen on 
the subject. 

About 2 O'Clock Mr. Allen called and informed 
me that he had this morning consulted with Col. Ben- 
ton on the subject, and that both he and Col. Benton 
thought it advisable in order if possible to secure 
unanimity of action in the Senate in regard to the 
proposed appropriation, that I should consult Mr. 
Calhoun. He said if Mr. Calhoun on being con- 
sulted agreed in the policy of the movement it would 
go far towards securing unanimity of action in the 
Senate, and if he did not concur it could do no harm, 
because hi[s] opposition in that event would have to 
be encountered whether he were consulted or not. I 
accordingly directed my Private Secretary [to ask 
him] to call this evening at 7 O'Clock. About that 
hour Mr. Calhoun called, and I explained to him as 
I had done to Col. Benton, Mr. Allen, and Gen'l Cass 
the object which I had in view, and asked his confi- 
dential opinion on the subject. He concurred with 



3 i2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Mar 

me in the great importance of procuring by a Treaty 
with Mexico such a boundary as would include Cali- 
fornia. He said he had contemplated, when Secre- 
tary of State, as a very desirable boundary a line run- 
ning from a point on the Gulf of Mexico through the 
desert to the Northward between the Nueces & the 
Del Norte to a point about 36 or 37 and thence 
West to the Pacific so as to include the Bay of San 
Francisco, and he said he would like to include 
Monterey also; and that for such a boundary we 
could afford to pay a large sum, and mentioned ten 
millions of dollars. I told him that I must insist 
on the Del Norte as the line up to the Passo in about 
latitude 32 , where the Southern line of New Mexico 
crosses that River, and then if practicable by a line 
due West to the Pacific; but if that could not be ob- 
tained then to extend up the Del Norte to its source, 
including all New Mexico on both sides of it, and 
from its source to the source of the Colorado of the 
West and down that River to its mouth in the Bay of 
California. I showed him these proposed lines on 
the map. He said if it was practicable either [of] 
these were boundaries which he would prefer to that 
suggested by himself. I asked him, if I could procure 
such a boundary, if I could not afford to pay $25,- 
000,000 for it. He said I could & that the amount 
would be no object. I then explained to him as I 
had done in Cabinet and to Col. Benton, Mr. Allen, 
& Gen'l Cass, as recorded in this diary on Saturday 
and on yesterday, the importance of having a sum of 
money appropriated by Congress, to be paid down 
on the Signature of the Treaty. I pointed him to the 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 313 

precedents in 1803 & 1806, and asked his advice on 
the subject. He said with the utmost care to pre- 
vent it the object of the appropriation would become 
public, and he apprehended would embarrass the set- 
tlement of the Oregon question. Much conversation 
on the subject occurred, the result of which was that 
he did not yield his assent to the movement to pro- 
cure the appropriation from Congress, but said he 
would reflect upon the subject and turn it over in his 
mind. He said if I had no objection he would con- 
verse with Mr. McDuffie confidentially on the sub- 
ject. I told him I had no objection to his doing so. 
Mr. Calhoun several times in the course of the con- 
sultation turned the conversation on the Oregon ques- 
tion, and was much disposed to dwell on that subject. 
He insisted that the two Governments ought to settle 
it, and that they could do it on the basis of 49 . He 
said that a question of etiquette ought not to prevent 
either from reopening the negotiation by a new prop- 
osition. I told him I could make no proposition. 
He asked me if I had any reason to think that Great 
Brittain would make a proposition. I told him that 
I had no certain knowledge that she would, but one 
thing I thought certain, that if she did it would not 
be until after she saw the result of the action of Con- 
gress on the notice and the other measures which I 
had recommended. He said he was inclined to that 
opinion, and but for that opinion he would be in 
favour of postponing the decision. As it was he 
thought the question on the notice would be taken in 
the Senate this week. He seemed to intimate a de- 
sire to know, without asking the direct question, what 



3 i4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Mar. 

I would do if Great Brittain did make a proposition. 
I was very careful in my reply, and said if a prop- 
osition was made I would probably consult the Sen- 
ate before acting on it, if it was in my judgment 
such a proposition as ought to be submitted to the 
Senate. 

This evening about 5 O'Clock, Maj'r John H. 
Bills & his daughter left for home at Bolivar, Ten- 
nessee. At the same time Mr. Edwin Polk left on a 
visit of a few days for Phil'a, New York, & Boston. 
I gave him letters of introduction to friends in these 
Cities. Mr. Buchanan called at 9 O'Clock P. M. 
and informed me that he would leave on to-morrow 
morning on a visit to his residence in Pennsylvania, 
and expected to be absent a week or ten days. He 
requested me to appoint Mr. N. P. Trist, Ch. Clk. in 
the State Department, to be acting Secretary of State 
during his absence. I informed Mr. Buchanan of 
the result of my conversation with Mr. Calhoun. 

TUESDAY, Jlst March, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except Mr. Buchanan, who is absent on a visit to his 
residence in Pennsylvania. The Secretary of War 
consulted me as to his answer in reply to a call made 
upon him by Col. Benton as chairman of the com- 
mittee of Military affairs for a project of Bills for the 
public defence, in the event of a rupture with Eng- 
land. I advised him to cut down and reduce the es- 
timates made to him by the Heads of Bureau[s] of 
his Department. He said he would do so and sub- 
mit to me his answer to the call before he sent it to 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 315 

the Committee. Some other public matters of no 
great interest were considered and disposed of. I 
stated to the Cabinet the result of the conversations 
which I had held with Col. Benton, Mr. Allen, Gen'l 
Cass, and Mr. Calhoun on the subject of our Mexican 
relations since the last meeting of the Cabinet. Be- 
fore the meeting of the Cabinet to-day Mr. Senator 
Allen called and I informed him of the conversation 
with Mr. Calhoun last evening. I told Mr. Allen 
to consult Col. Benton and Gen'l Cass on the subject 
of the proposed movement in the Senate in relation 
to Mexico. I told him I left it entirely to them 
upon consultation to move or not in the matter, and at 
such time and in such manner as they might judge 
best, with a view to obtain the appropriation pro- 
posed. I told him also, that if on further consulta- 
tion they thought it best to abandon the matter, to do 
so and I would acquiesce in their decision. 

This being one of the evenings on which my man- 
sion is open for the reception of visitors informally, 
between 50 & 100 persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 
They consisted of citizens, strangers, members of 
Congress, &c. 

Wednesday, 1st April, 1846. — I saw a number 
of visitors to-day up to 12 O'Clock. I think the 
pressure for office has abated. My answer to all ap- 
plicants is, there are no vacancies. 

At 2 O'Clock P. M. gave Mr. Healy and Mr. 
Debousier another sitting for my portrait and min- 
iature. I am becoming heartily tired of these sit- 
tings. 



3 i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 April 

Mrs. Polk & myself paid a visit this evening at 7 
O'Clock to Mr. Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, & sat an 
hour with the family. It is the first visit of the kind 
which I have made since I have been President, ex- 
cept to call on Mrs. Madison, 1 and on Mr. Atto. 
Gen'l Mason when he was sick last summer, and to 
dine with Mr. Bancroft the past winter. My time 
has been wholly occupied in my office, in the dis- 
charge of my public duties. My confinement to my 
office has been constant & unceasing and my labours 
very great. 

THURSDAY, 2nd April, 1846. — Saw the usual 
round of company to-day until 12 O'Clock, when I 
closed my doors. After 12 O'Clock saw the Secre- 
taries of War and the Navy on business. Devoted 
the balance of the day until my dinner hour at 4 
P. M. to disposing of the business on my table. 
After night saw & held conversations on public af- 
fairs separately with the Hon. C. J. Ingersoll & Sen- 
ator Samuel Houston of Texas. At 9 O'Clock Hon. 
Aaron Vanderpool 2 of N. Y. called and sat an hour. 
He is an old acquaintance, having served several 
years with him in Congress. 

FRIDAY, 3rd April, 1846.— Saw the usual round 
of company till 12 O'Clock to-day. Occupied from 
12 until 2 P. M. in disposing of the business on my 
table. At 2 P. M. gave another sitting to Mr. Healy 

1 Dorothy Payne Madison, 1772-1849, wife of President Mad- 
ison ; noted for her beauty and her rare accomplishments. 

2 Representative from New York, 1833-1837, and 1839-1841. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 317 

and Mr. Debousier, who are painting my portrait 
and miniature. 

This morning Mr. Calhoun of S. C. called and in 
reference to the proposed appropriation of a Million 
of dollars to enable me to adjust our differences of 
boundary &c. with Mexico, concerning which I held 
the conversation with him (which is noted in this 
diary) some days ago, he expressed the opinion that 
it would be inexpedient at present to move in the 
matter in Congress. He approved the object which 
I had in view, but assigned reasons for the opinion 
which he had expressed. I told him I left it to my 
friends in the Senate & would acquiesce in whatever 
they might determine on the subject, but repeated to 
him my conviction that if I could have command of 
a million of Dollars (to be accounted for of course) 
that I might be enabled to settle our Mexican diffi- 
culty speedily, and that without it I had doubts 
whether I could do so. 

Mr. Senator Allen called a few minutes after Mr. 
Calhoun had retired, and I informed him of Mr. 
Calhoun's opinion. He at once said that without 
Mr. Calhoun's cooperation the measure would meet 
with serious embarrassments in the Senate, and ad- 
vised that the movement contemplated be postponed 
for a few days. 

This being reception evening an hundred or more 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called & were received 
in the parlours by Mrs. Polk & myself. 

I heard to-day that my brother-in-law, Dr. Silas 
M. Caldwell of Haywood Co., Tennessee, died at his 
residence on the 20th March, 1846. 



3i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 April 

SATURDAY, 4th April, 1846. — The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of State, who is absent from the 
City on a visit to his residence in Pennsylvania. Sev- 
eral subjects of public interest, but none of them of 
great importance were considered. 

At 8 O'Clock P. M. Senator Jarnegan of Ten- 
nessee called, and spent two hours with me in con- 
versation about the domestic troubles existing in the 
Cherokee nation of Indians, and the proper remedies 
to be adopted by Congress. I informed him that the 
Commissioner of Indian affairs had prepared a Re- 
port on the subject, which I would communicate with 
a message to Congress in two or three days. Mr. 
Jarnegan entered into free conversation about vari- 
ous other public subjects, and manifested, as he has 
done throughout my administration, a friendly feel- 
ing towards me personally. 

SUNDAY, 5^ April, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk. My two nieces, Miss Walker and Miss 
Rucker, attended divine service at the Capitol. 

MONDAY, 6th April, 1846. — Saw a large number 
of persons to-day, members of Congress and others, 
some on business, some seeking office, and some on 
visits of ceremony. Closed my doors at 12 O'Clock. 
At 2 O'Clock P. M. I gave another sitting to Mr. 
Healy and Mr. Debousier, who are painting my por- 
trait and miniature. They finished their paintings 
to-day and I am heartily glad of it. It is, I think, the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 319 

last sitting I will give to an artist to take my likeness 
during a Session of Congress, because it interferes 
too much with my business hours. After night Mr. 
C. J. Ingersoll of the Ho. Repts. & Senator Sevier of 
Arkansas called to see me in reference to public 
matters. 

TUESDAY, yth April, 1846. — The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of State, who is still absent on a 
visit to his residence in Pennsylvania. A despatch 
was received by last night's mail from our consul at 
Vera Cruz, which renders it probable that Mr. Sli- 
dell, our minister to Mexico, will not be received 
by that Government, & will return to the U. States. 
The despatch was read & I stated that in the event 
Mr. Slidell was not accredited, and returned to the 
U. S., my opinion was that I should make a commu- 
nication to Congress recommending that Legislative 
measures be adopted, to take the remedy for the in- 
juries and wrongs we had suffered into our own 
hands. In this there seemed to be a concurrence on 
the part of the Cabinet, no one dissenting. Several 
other subjects of minor importance were considered 
and disposed of. 

Senator Turney called at my office this evening 
about 6 O'Clock P. M. to see me about an appoint- 
ment, an Indian Agency or something of the kind, 
for his nephew Gideon C. Matlock. I was about to 
take my accustomed walk when he called, and in- 
vited him to walk with me. During our walk 
around the President's square he inquired of me if I 



320 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Aprii 

had seen the last Nashville Union. I told him I had 
not. He said that there was an article in it which 
had excited Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, and that he 
(S.) had written to Lewis H. Coe on the subject of 
the article. I asked Mr. Turney what the article 
was and he told me that it contained, as I understood 
him, an article abusing or censuring Mr. Stanton for 
franking to his District Mr. Turney's late speech 1 
in the Senate, charging that Mr. Nicholson, the 
editor, had in 1839 attempted to defeat Mr. 
Grundy's 2 election to the Senate of the U. S. by a 
union of a few Democrats for himself united with 
the Whig vote in the Tennessee Legislature. Mr. 
Turney went on to say that the fact that Mr. Nichol- 
son had attempted to do so had been stated to him by 
Mr. Coe, Judge Dunlap, Gen'l Armstrong, 3 and Mr. 
Grundy in his lifetime. Mr. Turney said that he 
hoped to get Mr. Coe's statement of the fact, and if 
he did he would in his place in the Senate expose 
Mr. Nicholson. I said nothing but heard what Mr. 
T. had to say; except that I remarked that in 1839, 
pending the Senatorial election, I had been for Mr. 
Grundy, and that Mr. Nicholson had kept away from 
me. Mr. Turney said I had once mentioned it to 
him, to which I made no reply. He said that Mr. 
Coe had informed him that he (C.) had informed 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 386-388. 

2 Felix Grundy, 1 777-1840, Senator from Tennessee 1829- 
1838, and re-elected in 1839, having been Attorney General of 
the United States in the interval. 

3 Robert Armstrong, consul at Liverpool during Polk's admin- 
istration. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 321 

me of Mr. Nicholson's attempt to defeat Mr. 
Grundy by Whig votes, and that Nicholson had in- 
formed him (Coe) that Mr. Foster had promised 
him the undivided Whig vote if he could get Demo- 
cratic votes united with them to elect him. To all 
this I made no reply, not desiring to be involved in 
the controversy between Mr. Nicholson and Mr. 
Turney. The truth however is, that I remembered 
distinctly that my belief was at the time that Mr. 
Nicholson did make an effort to defeat Mr. Grundy 
by the union of a few Democrats with the whole 
Whig party, and that he failed. I remember, too, 
that I talked freely with a number of the Democratic 
members of the Legislature on the subject, and prob- 
ably prevented him from accomplishing his purpose. 
I remember to have talked with Barkley Martin 1 
and T. H. Laughlin among others, but have at this 
time no recollection of talking with Mr. Coe, though 
it is probable I did so. I did not inform Mr. Tur- 
ney of these facts because, occupying the position I 
do, I desired not to be involved as a witness or other- 
wise in the controversy between Mr. Turney and 
Mr. Nicholson. 

This being reception evening between fifty and 
an hundred persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 
These informal reception evenings are very pleasant. 
Members of Congress, strangers, and others call with- 
out ceremony and without invitation, and retire when 
they are disposed to do so. By setting apart two 
evenings in the week (tuesdays & fridays) I can de- 

1 Barclay Martin, Representative from Tennessee 1 845-1 847. 



322 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 April 

vote the balance of the evenings of the week to busi- 
ness in my office. 

Received despatches from Mr. Slidell, U. S. Min- 
ister to Mexico, to-night, announcing that the Mexi- 
can authorities had refused to receive him & that he 
had demanded his passports. 

Wednesday, 8th April, 1846. — Received com- 
pany until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour de- 
voted my time to the business on my table, which 
accumulates daily and keeps me constantly employed. 
At ty 2 O'Clock P. M. I had a dinner party of about 
20 persons among whom were Senators Houston and 
Rusk of Texas, Thos. Jefferson Randolph of Va., 
Go[v]. McDowell of Va., Mr. Senator Crittenden 
of Ky., & Madison Caruthers of New Orleans. 

Mr. Senator Haywood of N. C. called about the 
time the dinner party were dispersing and was en- 
gaged with me in conversation until between 11 & 
12 O'Clock. 

My Private Secretary informed me this afternoon 
that Col. Benton had informed him at the Senate 
Chamber to-day, that he desired to have an interview 
with me & that he would call on me at 8 o'clock P. 
M. on to-morrow. 

Thursday, gth April, 1846. — Saw the usual 
round of company until 12 O'Clock to-day. Some 
were begging money, others seeking office, and 
others on visits of ceremony. At 12 O'Clock I was 
glad to close my doors and attend to the business on 
my table. At 6 O'Clock P. M. I took my usual 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 323 

evening's walk, it being my habit to walk every morn- 
ing shortly after sunrise and every evening about 
sunset. During my walk this evening I met Sen- 
ator Turney, who resumed the conversation about an 
appointment in the Indian Service which he desired 
to obtain for his nephew, Gideon C. Matlock. I 
told [him] I thought it would be in my power shortly 
to appoint Mr. Matlock an Indian commissioner to 
be associated with Ma[j]'r T. P. Andrews to nego- 
tiate a Treaty with the Pottawatimie Indians for ces- 
sion of their lands in Iowa, and to give them in ex- 
change a part of the country recently obtained from 
the Kansas Indians, if the Treaty now before the 
Senate recently concluded with the latter Tribe 
should be ratified. With this Mr. T. expressed him- 
self to be satisfied. 

At 8 O'Clock P. M. Col. Benton called according 
to his appointment communicated to me through my 
Private Secretary on yesterday. The first subject he 
mentioned was to inform me that Isaac T. Preston, 1 
Esqr., of New Orleans, wished the appointment of 
U. S. Attorney for Louisiana in place of Mr. 
Downes, 2 who was recently elected to the U. S. Sen- 
ate. I informed Col. Benton that Mr. Downes had 
written to the Secretary of State that he would retain 
the office of U. S. Attorney until the 4th of March 
next, when his Senatorial term would commence. I 
expressed a favourable opinion of Mr. Preston, but 

1 Isaac Trimble Preston, 1 793-1 852, Judge of the Supreme 
Court of Louisiana. 

2 Solomon W. Downs, U. S. District Attorney 1845-1847, 
Senator from Louisiana 1 847-1 853. 



3 2 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 April 

made no promise to appoint him. I enquired of 
Col. B. if Mr. Preston was in any way interested in 
the large Spanish grants to land in Louisiana, for 
which the U. S. had directed suits to be brought, and 
stated that if he was so interested he could not act as 
U. S. Attorney. Col. B, said he did not know how 
that was but would write to him on the subject. 

Col. Benton introduced the Oregon question, submit- 
ted a map which he had brought with him published 
by Congress with [the report of] Capt Wilkes's ex- 
ploring Expedition 1 in 1841, on which was marked in 
dotted lines the parallel of 49 . Col. B. repeated 
the opinion which he had before expressed to me 
that our title was best to the valley of the Columbia 
& he would fight for it before he would give it up. 
He thought the Brittish title best to Fraser's River. 
His opinion was that the basis of 49 ° was the proper 
line of settlement. I repeated what I once before 
said to him, that if Great Britain offered that line, 
or if she offered it retaining to herself the Southern 
cap[e] of Vancouver's Island & the temporary navi- 
gation of the Columbia River for a term of years, 
that in either case I would submit the proposition to 
the Senate in Executive Session and take their ad- 
vice before I acted on it. Col. B. said that in either 
case he would advise its acceptance. I expressed to 
him as I have uniformly done to others that the 

1 Charles Wilkes, 1798-1877; from 1838 to 1842 he was en- 
gaged in exploring the islands of the Southern Pacific and the 
western coast of North America. Captain Wilkes became promi- 
nent later in connection with the Trent affair, at the beginning of 
the Civil War. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 325 

Notice should be given speedily & regretted the de- 
lay. I told Col. B. that I had no expectation that 
Great Brittain would make any proposition until 
Congress passed the Notice; that as long as she cal- 
culated on our divisions she would make no move- 
ment & there would be no prospect of a settlement. 
Col. Benton then said he had another proposition to 
submit to me for my consideration. It was this: 
that when the notice was passed, I should consult the 
Senate in Executive Session, whether at the time I 
gave it I should not renew the offer of 49 , which 
I had made and withdrawn last summer. He said 
he would advise me to do so. I told him I had not 
contemplated doing so. He said he thought it im- 
portant I should do so, and asked me to consider of 
it. I told him I would do so. He said, after hav- 
ing repeated his views of title & his conviction that 
the question ought to be settled on the basis of 49 , 
he would if I thought it best make a speech to that 
effect in the Senate; or he would reserve himself and 
make his speech in Executive Session if I should con- 
sult the Senate. I told him I could not advise him 
to speak in open Senate; that I thought the great 
error of the whole debate in both Houses had been 
that whatever had been said was spoken not only to 
our own people but to the Brittish Government; that 
we thereby exposed our hand, whilst our adversary 
kept hers concealed. He concurred in this view. I 
told him if he chose to speak he had better do so 
after the notice was given, in Executive Session. 

I informed Col. B. that Mr. Slidell, the U. S. 
Minister to Mexico, had been rejected by the Mexi- 



326 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 April 

can Government, which had refused to receive him, 
& that he had demanded his passports, and that un- 
less the Mexican Government reconsidered their re- 
fusal to receive him he would return immediately 
to the U. States. We had a full conversation in 
reference to our relations with Mexico, & the steps 
proper to be taken, and especially if the principal 
Powers of Europe should attempt to force a Foreign 
Prince on a throne in Mexico. In the course of the 
conversation Col. B. remarked that his opinion was 
that our ablest men should be Ministers to the South 
American States; that we should cultivate their 
friendship and stand with them as the Crowned 
Heads of Europe stood together. He considered 
the missions to Europe less important than those to 
South America, and incidentally he stated a fact of 
which I had never heard before. It was that Gen'l 
Jackson had offered him the first mission to Europe 
which he had declined. He did not mention to 
which of the Courts he had been offered the mission. 
Col. B. spoke throughout in the most friendly 
terms and the interview was a pleasant one. I told 
him as he was about to leave that I would send for 
him when I next heard from Mexico. 

Friday, loth April, 1846. — Saw company until 
11 O'Clock this morning. I had important business 
on my table and therefore closed my doors an hour 
earlier than usual. Nothing I suppose was lost to 
the public by this, as all the visitors I had this morn- 
ing appeared to be office seekers. The passion for 
office seems to increase. I tell all who call that I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 327 

have no vacancies to fill, but still I am annoyed by 
constant application. 

Senator Houston of Texas called at 1 O'Clock. 
I had sent for him to consult him in reference to our 
relations with Mexico. Senator Allen, ch. of com. 
of Foreign affairs of the Senate, for whom I had 
also sent, called at 2 O'Clock P. M. I consulted 
him also in relation to Mexico. After consulting 
these gentlemen I determined to make no communi- 
cation to Congress on the subject until the facts 
should be certainly ascertained that Mr. Slidell had 
received his passports and left Mexico. This was 
the opinion I had formed before seeing them, and I 
was confirmed in it after consulting with them. 
Saw company in the parlour this evening, this being 
one of the evenings set apart for receiving company 
informally. The company was not large, probably 
not exceeding fifty persons, consisting of ladies and 
gentlemen. 

Saturday, nth April, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except the Secretary of State, who was still absent on 
a visit to his residence in Pennsylvania. 

Despatches received from Mr. Slidell, our Min- 
ister to Mexico, announcing that the Mexican Gov- 
ernment had a second time refused to accredit him, 
and that he had demanded his passports, were read, 
and it was unanimously agreed that before it was 
proper to make any communication to Congress on 
the subject we should wait until he had actually re- 
turned to the U. States. Some other business was 



328 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n April 

transacted, but of no great importance. At about i V 2 
O'Clock P. M., the Cabinet having finished the busi- 
ness before it, the Secretary of War and the P. M. 
General retired. The other members of the Cabi- 
net remained in my office in conversation, when 
about 2 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary 
of State, came in, having returned to-day from his 
visit to Pennsylvania. He remained with the other 
gentlemen of the Cabinet, who had not retired when 
he came in, for near an hour, during which time 
what had occurred in his absence was the subject of 
conversation. I told him among other things that 
I was glad he had returned, and took his opinion in 
reference to our Mexican affairs. He concurred in 
opinion that we should wait until Mr. Slidell actu- 
ally returned to the U. States before it would be 
proper for me to make any communication to 
Congress on the subject. I called Mr. Buchanan's 
attention to a call made by the House of Representa- 
tives for information in relation to the expenditure 
of the Secret Service fund during the period Mr. 
Webster was Secretary of State, and requested him 
to prepare the information and Report it to me to 
be communicated to Congress. 

Had a dining party to-day at 5 O'Clock P. M. 
consisting of Senator Turney and Representatives 
Cullom, Jones, 1 Chase, B. Martin & wife, Stanton 
& wife, and Col. T. H. Laug[h]lin and Miss John- 
son, daughter of Hon. Andrew Johnson 2 of the Ho. 

1 George W. Jones, Representative from Tennessee 1 843-1 853, 
and 1855-1859. 

2 Representative from Tennessee 1 843-1 853, President of the 
United States 1 865-1 869. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 329 

Repts., all from Tennessee, and being the old Demo- 
cratic members of Congress from Tennessee and 
their families who were in Washington. Mr. A. 
Johnson was prevented from attending by indisposi- 
tion. I invited Col. Laughlin to dine with them. 
It was a very pleasant party. 

The Secretary of the Senate brought me a Resolu- 
tion of the Senate passed to-day announcing the con- 
firmation of several nominations, and among others 
of James H. Tate of Mississippi as consul to Buenos- 
ayres [Buenos Ayres]. Strenuous opposition had 
been made by Hon. Jacob Thompson against the con- 
firmation of this nomination shortly after it was 
made in the early part of this Session of Congress, 
a full account of which is recorded in this diary & 
to which I refer. Mr. Thompson called this even- 
ing to introduce some friends, appeared to be 
friendly but did not allude to Dr. Tate's nomination. 
The truth is he acted badly on the subject, and prob- 
ably now regrets it. The Treaty 1 negotiated by my 
brother, Wm. H. Polk, with the King of the Two 
C[S]icilies was ratified by the Senate to-day. 

SUNDAY, 1 2th April, 1846. — Attended the First 
Presbyterian Church to-day, in company with Mrs. 
Polk, my niece, Miss Rucker, & my nephew, Mar- 
shall T. Polk. 

MONDAY, 13th April, 1846. — Was much en- 
gaged this morning in preparing & having copied 
two messages to Congress, the one relating to the 

1 U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 833-842. 



33 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 April 

Cherokee Indians and the other in answer to a call 
of the Senate in relation to the Oregon question. 
Sent both messages about I2j4 O'Clock. I was re- 
peatedly interrupted during the morning, by calls of 
Senators, Representatives, and others. Devoted the 
balance of the day to the business on my table. Had 
Gen'l Jacobs of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Mr. 
James H. Piper of Virginia to take a family dinner 
with me to-day. After night saw Mr. Senator Pen- 
nybacker, for whom I had sent to inform him that 
I would on to-morrow nominate James H. Piper of 
Virginia as ch. Clerk of the Gen'l Land Office. Mr. 
Pennybacker had some conversation with me on the 
Oregon [question], the result of which was that he 
would vote for the Ho. Resolutions to give notice 
to Great Brittain. 

Tuesday, 14th April, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
It having been decided on consultation with the Sec- 
retary of State on yesterday that it was necessary to 
send a special bearer of despatches to Naples to ex- 
change the ratifications of the Commercial Treaty 
concluded and signed at Naples between the U. S. 
& the Kingdom of the Two C[S]icilies, Washington 
Greenhow, Esqr., of Richmond, Va., was employed 
to go out as bearer of despatches. The Secretary of 
State and myself saw Mr. Greenhow in my Private 
Secretary's office, and he agreed to leave this even- 
ing so as to take the packet of the 16th Instant at 
New York. The Treaty was signed by Wm. H. 
Polk, charge d' affaires of the U. S., and the Pleni- 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 331 

potentiary of the Government of the two C[S]icilies 
on the 1st of December, 1845, and stipulated that the 
ratifications should be exchanged at Naples in six 
months after its date. It was deemed unsafe there- 
fore to wait until the Steamer of the 1st proximo or 
to entrust it to the ordinary conveyance, lest it might 
not reach Naples within the time s[ti]pulated, and 
therefore a bearer of despatches was employed. The 
Treaty was not ratified by the Senate until the nth 
Instant. Several public subjects, but not of general 
interest, were considered and disposed of by the Cabi- 
net. The Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock P. M. 
Saw an unusually large number of visitors in the 
parlour this evening, there being between one and 
two hundred persons, ladies & gentlemen, who called 
in the course of the evening. I find these informal 
evenings of reception twice a week pleasant. They 
afford all strangers who desire to do so an opportu- 
nity [to] call in an informal way. By setting apart 
two evenings in the week, too, to receive company, 
I am enabled to devote the other evenings of the 
week to my public duties. 

Wednesday, 15th April, 1846. — Saw the usual 
round of company until 12 O'Clock today. 

After 12 O'Clock Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Trist, 
Ch. Clk. of the State Department, called with copies 
prepared in answer to the call of the Ho. Repts. of 
the 9th Instant for information in relation to the ex- 
penditures of the fund " for contingent expenses of 
foreign intercourse " settled on President's certifi- 
cates between the 4th of March, 1841, and the retire- 



332 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 April 

merit of Daniel Webster from the Department of 
State. The propriety of answering such a call, and 
exposing the secrecy of the expenditure of this fund 
settled on President's certificates was discussed. So 
much doubt was created upon my mind on the sub- 
ject, that I told Mr. Buchanan that I would call a 
meeting of the Cabinet this evening at 7 O'Clock. 
I directed my Private Secretary to wait on the mem- 
bers of the Cabinet and invite them to attend at that 
hour. At 7 O'Clock P. M. the Cabinet assembled, 
except the Atto. General who was detained by in- 
disposition. I brought the subject of the call of the 
Ho. of Repts. before the cabinet, & after a full dis- 
cussion it was the unanimous advice of the Cabinet 
that I shall not give the information called for, but 
that I should send a message to the House assigning 
the reasons for declining to do so. The Post Master 
General at first hesitated as to the correctness of this 
course, but finally acquiesced in the advice given by 
the other members of the Cabinet. I then told the 
Cabinet that my mind was convinced that it would 
be a most dangerous precedent to answer the call 
of the House by giving the information requested, 
that I doubted whether I would not violate the 
spirit, if not the letter of the existing law if I did 
so; and that I would prepare a message to the House 
to that effect. I requested Mr. Buchanan who had 
taken a leading part in the discussion in favour of 
this course, to prepare the draft of such a message 
as he would approve. I told him that I would pre- 
pare one also, and that when prepared we would 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 333 

compare them. The Cabinet adjourned about 10 
O'Clock P. M. 

Thursday, 16th April, 1846. — I closed my 
doors this morning and saw no company. I pre- 
pared the draft of a message to the House of Repre- 
sentatives assigning the reasons why I declined to 
respond to their Resolution of the 9th Instant, accord- 
ing to the advice of the Cabinet in special meeting 
last evening. I had finished my draft about half an 
hour when Mr. Buchanan called about 1 O'Clock 
P. M. with a draft which he had prepared as I had 
requested him. They were both read and there was 
a remarkable coincidence of views. Mr. Buchanan 
said he would take his draft with him and after re- 
vising it he would send it to me. In the course of 
the evening he sent it to me. The Secretary of the 
Treasury in the course of the day furnished me a 
paragraph embodying his views upon a single point. 

About 8 O'Clock P. M. Mr. C. J. Ingersoll of the 
Ho. Repts., who was the author of the House Reso- 
lution, called, but not on business connected with the 
Resolution. After conversing on other subjects, the 
subject of the Resolution was mentioned. I told him 
the difficulties I had in responding to the call; that 
if he had called for the public accounts or those set- 
tled on vouchers there would have been no difficulty 
in giving the information. He seemed to be sur- 
prised to learn that his Resolution did not embrace 
a call for the greater part of the information which 
he wished to obtain, and that I had doubts as to the 



334 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 April 

propriety of answering the call which had been made 
to expose the expenditure of the Secret Service fund. 
I saw Gen'l Cass in the course of this forenoon, 
and on laying the subject before him he concurred in 
opinion with the Cabinet, that I ought not to give 
the information called for [in] the Resolution of 
the House. 

Friday, 17th April, 1846. — Saw company this 
morning until 12 O'Clock. After 12 O'Clock I was 
subjected to many interruptions, but devoted what 
time I had to preparing a revised draft of a message 
in reply to the Resolution of the House of the 9th 
Instant. I had before me my own draft, that of Mr. 
Buchanan, and the paragraph prepared by the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury mentioned in this diary on 
yesterday. 

The Secretary of State and Secretary of War 
called on business. They were both of opinion that 
the vote x of the Senate on yesterday on the subject 
of notice on the Oregon question, though not so ac- 
ceptable as the Resolution of the House which they 
had amended, ought to be accepted by the House 
for the purpose of settling the question & putting an 
end to it. I acquiesced in their views. I as well 
as they preferred a naked notice; I was content with 
the Resolution which had passed the House. I was 
not altogether satisfied with the terms of the amended 
Resolution as it passed the Senate, but still it author- 
ized the notice to be given & that was the main ob- 
ject. With these views I was of opinion that it was 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 683. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 335 

safest for the House to concur with the Senate in 
their amendment to the House Resolution. I feared 
if the House non-concurred in the amendment of 
the Senate or sent it back to that body with an 
amendment, it might be postponed by the Senate in- 
definitely, or laid on the table to await the arrival of 
more Brittish Steamers. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. 
Marcy, entertaining the same views, said they would 
see some of the members of the House from N. York 
& Pennsylvania & express these opinions to them. I 
saw Mr. Martin of Tennessee (my immediate Rep- 
resentative) and expressed these opinions to him. 

Received company in the parlours this evening. 
About an hundred persons, ladies & gentlemen, at- 
tended; among them several members of the Ho. 
of Repts., to whom I expressed the same opinions in 
reference to the Senate's amendment to the Resolu- 
tion of notice that I had done to Mr. Buchanan and 
Mr. Marcy this morning. I remember to have 
spoken to the following gentlemen on the subject, 
viz. , Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, Mr. Nivin * & Mr. 
Demott 2 of N. Y., Mr. Foster of Penn., and Mr. 
Owen 3 of Indiana. To each of them I expressed the 
decided opinion that I preferred the House Resolu- 
tions of Notice to the amendment of the Senate, but, 
under the belief that nothing better could be had 
and for the reasons stated in my conversation with 
Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Marcy on yesterday, I advised 

1 Archibald C. Niven, Representative from New York 1845- 

1847. 

2 John De Mott, Representative from New York 1 845-1 847. 

3 Robert Dale Owen, 1 801-187 7, Representative from Indiana 
1 843-1 847. 



336 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 April 

them to take the Senate amendment. I feared if the 
House non-concurred or amended the proposition 
of the Senate, that the measure of notice in any form 
might be postponed, and possibly fail between the 
two Houses upon a difference as to the form of no- 
tice. The notice was the thing desired and if it 
could not be had in the form most acceptable it was 
better to take it [in] any form than not to get it at all. 

SATURDAY, 1 8th April, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present 
except the Atto. General, who was absent in conse- 
quence of indisposition. 

I read my message to the Ho. Repts. in reply to 
their Resolution of the 9th Instant, on the subject of 
expenditures of the appropriation for contingent ex- 
penses of foreign intercourse, under the authority of 
President's certificates. It was approved by the 
Cabinet & I gave it to my Private Secretary to be 
copied, so as to have it ready to have it communi- 
cated to the House on monday next. 

The subject of the Senate's amendment to the House 
Resolutions of notice on the Oregon question was 
discussed, and all the members of the Cabinet agreed 
in opinion that it was best under the circumstances, 
and to avoid the danger of defeat of any notice at 
all, to advise the Democratic members of the House 
to concur in it. There being no business of impor- 
tance to be brought before the Cabinet to-day, the 
Post Master Gen'l & Secretary of State left with the 
intention of visiting the House and conferring with 
some of the members on the subject. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3 37 

My Private Secretary returned from the House 
about 2 O'Clock P. M. and informed me that the 
House had amended the Senate's proposition of no- 
tice and asked their concurrence in their amendment, 
the effect of which is to return the subject to the 
Senate. The P. M. Gen'l called at 7 O'Clock and 
informed me that the vote had been taken before he 
reached the House. The P. M. Gen'l left and Mr. 
Calhoun called. After speaking to me about some 
appointments & among others of his son, who is in 
the army and whom he desired to have promoted in 
the new Regiment about to be authorized by Con- 
gress, he inquired about the state of our relations 
with Mexico. I told him that Mr. Slidell had, on 
being rejected as Minister of the U. States, returned, 
and that our relations with Mexico had reached a 
point where we could not stand still but must as- 
sert our rights firmly; that we must treat all nations 
whether weak or strong alike, and that I saw no al- 
ternative but strong measures towards Mexico. 
Mr. Calhoun deprecated war & expressed a hope 
that the Oregon question would be first settled, and 
then we would have no difficulty in adjusting our 
difficulties with Mexico. He thought the Brittish 
Government desired to prevent a war between the 
U. S. & Mexico, and would exert its influence to 
prevent it. I told him I had reason to believe that 
the Brittish Minister in Mexico had exerted his in- 
fluence to prevent Mr. Slidell from being received 
by the Mexican Government. He said the Brittish 
Government desired to prevent a war, but did not de- 
sire a settlement between the U. S. and Mexico until 



338 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 April 

the Oregon question was settled. He then expressed 
an earnest desire to have the Oregon question settled. 
I told him that as long as Congress hesitated and re- 
fused to give the notice he need not expect a settle- 
ment of the Oregon question ; that until Congress au- 
thorized the notice Great Brittain would calculate 
largely on our divisions & would make no proposi- 
tion. I expressed the opinion also that if Congress 
had given the notice in the early part of the Session 
& shown that we were united & firm, I thought it 
probable the question would have been settled before 
this time. I told him that until the notice was given 
Great Brittain would make no proposition. He 
said that some of the Foreign ministers of other 
countries now at Washington by acting as a common 
friend of the parties could bring them together, and 
have a Treaty agreed upon, without either party 
making a proposition. I told him I could not invite 
any such agency. He said they might act volun- 
tarily. I repeated that what was wanting was for 
the Senate to agree to the notice promptly, and ex- 
pressed the hope that they would not delay action on 
the amendment of the House passed today on their 
Resolution. He said the Senate would act on it on 
monday. He expressed a strong desire that I would 
send in no message on Mexican affairs until the Ore- 
gon question was settled. I told him that I would 
delay a reasonable time, but that whatever the set- 
tlement of the Oregon question might be, I would 
feel it to be my duty to lay the Mexican question be- 
fore Congress, with my opinion on the subject, in 
time for their action at the present Session. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 339 

At about 9 O'Clock P. M. I was informed that 
Col. Benton & his two daughters were in the parlour 
below stairs. Mrs. Polk & the young ladies found it 
inconvenient to go down. I went down. Col. Ben- 
ton told me whenever I wished to see him to let him 
know, and he would be ready to act with me on the 
Oregon question. I understood him to have allu- 
sion to the news expected to be received by the next 
Steamer now looked for daily. I told him I would 
do so. I expressed to him the hope that the Senate 
would act on the amendment of the House to their 
resolution of notice promptly. He said he thought 
they would concur with the House in their amend- 
ment on Monday next. 

Senator Allen called to-day and expressed himself 
highly gratified at the House amendment of the Sen- 
ate proposition of notice. 

Sunday, igth April, 1846. — Attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my niece, Miss Rucker. 

A despatch was received today from Mr. Mc- 
Lane, U. S. Minister at London, dated 18th of 
March last. The Secretary of State and Secretary 
of war called after night to converse on the subject 
of the Foreign news. 

Monday, 20th April, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'Clock. An unusually large number 
attended. I sent my message ! to the Ho. Repts. in 

1 Dated April 20, 1846. Printed in H. Ex. Doc. 187, 29 Cong. 
1 Sess. 



34 o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 April 

answer to their Resolution of the 9th Instant, in re- 
lation to the secret service fund. 

Andrew J. Donelson, Esqr., of Tennessee, U. S. 
Minister to Prussia, called shortly after 12 O'Clock. 
He informed me he reached Washington with his 
family on last evening on his way to Prussia to enter 
on the duties of his Mission. At 7 O'Clock P. M. 
my brother-in-law, James Walker of Tennessee, and 
his wife & son Marshall arrived and took lodgings 
upon my invitation in the President's mansion. 

I learned from Mr. Cullom of Tennessee, whom 
I met on my evening walk, that the Senate had dis- 
agreed to the amendment of the House to the Sen- 
ate's proposition of notice on the Oregon question. 
Mr. C. also informed me that the House by a vote 
had refused to recede & resolved to insist, and that 
a motion was pending at the adjournment of the 
House to ask a free conference with the Senate. 
Mr. Cullom asked my advice in the matter. I told 
him I feared that if the subject was returned to the 
Senate it would be lost between the two Houses, and 
that the great measure of notice would be lost upon 
a difference of opinion between the Houses as to the 
form of giving it. I stated to him that if the House 
sent the subject back to the Senate, they thereby lost 
all control over it, because the Resolution would be 
in the possession of the Senate. I told him the 
Senate might hold the subject in their hands and 
refuse a committee of conference; that if the Senate 
granted a conference, the conferees might not agree, 
or if they agreed the two Houses might not ratify 
their agreement, & that in either event there was 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 341 

great danger of the notice being lost. I told him 
I had a strong suspicion on my mind that a majority 
of the Senate would be glad to see [the] notice in 
any form defeated, and that they would probably 
avail themselves of the disagreement of the two 
Houses on a matter of form to effect their object. 
For these reasons I told him I thought the hazard of 
sending it back to the Senate would be very great. 
I repeated to Mr. Cullum what I had said to 
others within a few days passed [past], that I would 
have preferred a naked notice; that next to that I 
preferred the House Resolutions; but it being now 
ascertained by repeated votes in the Senate that 
neither could be had, I decidedly preferred the 
Senate form of notice to no notice at all. Under all 
the circumstances I advised as the safest course that 
the House should recede and suffer the Senate prop- 
osition to pass. I told him I feared if this was not 
done no notice would be authorized, and the great 
leading measure of my administration would thus be 
defeated. I told him I came to this conclusion re- 
luctantly as the best that could be done. 

On returning from my walk I saw Mr. Buchanan 
who agreed with [me] in these opinions, left say- 
ing he would see some of the members to-night. 
Mr. Bancroft called at my office shortly afterwards. 
He also agreed with me in my views. I sent for 
Mr. Marcy & Mr. Cave Johnson. They also agreed 
with me, and both left between 9 & 10 O'Clock, & 
said they would see [some] of the members of the 
House in the morning. Mr. Speaker Davis, for 
whom I had sent, called. He agreed also in these 



342 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 April 

opinions, as did also Mr. Wilmot & Mr. Foster of 
Pennsylvania, who called in the course of the even- 
ing. I repeated to these gentlemen severally in sub- 
stance the views which I had expressed to Mr. Cul- 
lom this evening. 

Tuesday, 21st April, 1846. — Mr. Black of the 
Ho. Repts. from S. C. called. He held a conver- 
sation with me on the subject of the notice, and the 
course proper to be taken by the House. I repeated 
to him in substance the opinions I expressed to Mr. 
Cullom and others last evening, and Mr. Black fully 
and entirely concurred in their correctness. Mr. 
Black stated that he had seen Mr. Calhoun this 
morning, and that he was satisfied from the conver- 
sation he had held with him that if the resolutions 
of notice were sent back again to the Senate, they 
would be lost. He did not repeat the conversation 
which he had held with Mr. Calhoun. 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting to-day; all the 
members present. Mr. Buchanan brought before 
the Cabinet the state of our relations with Peru, and 
particularly a letter addressed to him by the Secre- 
tary of Foreign affairs of that Government, com- 
plaining of the conduct of Mr. J. [A] G. Jewett, 
U. S. charge d'affaires to that Government, in rela- 
tion to the indemnity stipulated to be paid by Peru 
in pursuance of the Convention of 1841 between the 
two Governments. The correspondence held by 
Mr. Jewett with the Peruvian Government was 
read, as also his communication to the Department 
of State. After considering the subject, the Cabinet 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 343 

was unanimously of opinion that Mr. Jewett had 
acted unwisely and had committed a great error. I 
directed Mr. Buchanan to address a despatch to him 
informing him that his conduct was not approved, 
and to address also a proper letter to the Secretary 
of Foreign affairs of the Peruvian Government. 
Some other business of minor importance was con- 
sidered, when I stated to the Cabinet that the state 
of our relations with Mexico could not be permitted 
to remain in statu quo, that I thought they should 
be brought before Congress at an early day accom- 
panied with a message strongly and decidedly rec- 
ommending that strong measures be adopted to take 
the redress of our complaints against that Govern- 
ment into our own hands. I gave my views at some 
length on the subject, in which there seemed to be 
a concurrence of opinion in the Cabinet. At least 
no dissenting opinion was expressed. I stated that 
I thought it prudent to wait the arrival of the next 
Steamer from England, now daily expected, before 
a communication in relation to Mexico should be 
made to Congress. In this also there was a con- 
currence of opinion. 

The Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock P. M. 
Shortly afterwards my Private Secretary returned 
from the Capitol & informed me that the Ho. Repts. 
had appointed a committee of conference on the 
Oregon question; that the Senate had also appointed 
a committee consisting of two Whigs & one Demo- 
crat, & that considerable excitement prevailed 
among the Democratic party on the subject. The 
danger is that the Resolution of notice may fail be- 



344 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 April 

tween the two Houses in consequence of the dis- 
agreeing votes as to its form. 

Received company in the parlour this evening. 
Had an unusually large party, consisting of ladies 
& gentlemen, members of Congress, citizens and 
strangers. 

My relation, Edwin Polk of Tennessee, returned 
from a visit to the North to-day and took up his 
lodgings at the Presidential Mansion. 

I learned to-night that the Senate by the votes of 
Mr. Calhoun and his wing of the Democratic party 
united with the whole Whig party had rejected the 
nomination of Dr. Amos Nourse as collector at Bath 
in Maine. This is, in addition to other evidence, a 
pretty clear indication that Mr. Calhoun intends to 
oppose my administration. He has embarrassed the 
administration on the Oregon question. He is play- 
ing a game to make himself President and his mo- 
tives of action are wholly selfish. I will observe 
his future course & treat him accordingly. 

Wednesday, 22nd April, 1846. — Saw company 
until 11 O'Clock to-day; at which hour the English 
mail which left Liverpool on the 4th Instant was 
brought in. I closed my doors and shortly after- 
wards the Secretary of State called. A despatch re- 
ceived from Mr. McLane was read. He communi- 
cated his opinion that no step would be taken by 
the Brinish Government on the Oregon question until 
the decision of the Senate on the question of notice 
was known. The long delay in the Senate and our 
divided councils in Congress have added greatly to 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 345 

the embarrassments of the question. Had the notice 
been authorized in December the question would 
either have been settled or it would have been ascer- 
tained that it cannot be settled before this time. The 
speech of Mr. Webster, Mr. Calhoun, and others in 
the Senate advocating peace and the Brittish title 
to a large portion of the country, have made the 
Brittish Government & people more arrogant in 
their tone and more grasping in their demands. If 
war should be the result, these peace gentlemen & 
advocates of Brittish pretensions over those of their 
own country will have done more to produce it than 
any others. 

The truth is that in all this Oregon discussion in 
the Senate, too many Democratic Senators have been 
more concerned about the Presidential election in 
'48, than they have been about settling Oregon either 
at 49 or 54 4c/. " Forty-eight " has been with 
them the Great question, and hence the divisions in 
the Democratic party. I cannot but observe the 
fact, and for the sake of the country I deeply de- 
plore it. I will however do my duty whatever may 
happen. I will rise above the interested factions in 
Congress, and appeal confidently to the people for 
support. 

I learn that the committee of conference between 
the two Houses met last night, and without coming 
to any conclusion adjourned to meet again to-night. 

The Secretary of the Treasury called at 1 O'Clock 
P. M. to-day, as I had requested him to do. My 
purpose was to show him a list of very obnoxious 
Whig clerks which had been furnished to me, who 



346 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 April 

are now employed in his department. I informed 
him that members of Congress were daily complain- 
ing to me that so many bitter Whigs were retained 
in the offices here, whilst worthy and competent 
Democrats who desired the places were excluded. I 
gave him the list and charges attached to it & re- 
quested him to investigate the matter & make such 
removals as were proper. 

I availed myself of the occasion to say to Mr. 
Walker that his brother-in-law, Mr. Irwin 1 of 
Western Pennsylvania, appointed charge d'affaires 
to London by the last administration, was exceed- 
ingly obnoxious to the Democracy of Western Penn- 
sylvania. The Democracy of that part of the State 
represented him as a violent and bitter Whig, and 
did not recognize him as representing the Democ- 
racy of that part of the State. They desire to have 
him recalled and have a Democrat appointed in his 
place. I told Mr. Walker that it was unpleasant 
for me to make this communication to him, but that 
I thought that the fact that Mr. Irwin happened 
to be his brother-in-law ought not to prevent me 
from saying to him frankly that in my opinion Mr. 
Irwin ought to ask to be recalled. Mr. Walker gave 
a history of Mr. Irwin, and I soon saw that he de- 
sired him to be retained. After a conversation of 
some length I told him I would see him again on 
the subject. 

Maj'r Donelson, his wife and two daughters, and 

1 William W. Irwin of Pennsylvania was appointed charge 
d'affaires to Denmark by Tyler March 2, 1843; the reference to 
London is an error. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 347 

Cave Johnson took a family dinner with me to- 
day. 

At 9 O'Clock P. M. Hon. Robert Dale Owen, a 
member of the committee of conference of the Ho. 
Repts. on the Oregon question, called and informed 
me that the joint committee of the two Houses had 
held a meeting to-night and unanimously agreed 
upon a compromise on the disagreeing votes between 
the two Houses, and would report their agreement 
to their respective Houses to-day. He entertained 
no doubt that the agreement would be sanctioned 
by both Houses. 

Thursday, 23rd April, 1846. — My relation, 
Edwin Polk, Esqr., left at 6 O'Clock this morning 
for his residence in Tennessee. 

I saw company as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. 
Many persons called but nothing worthy of note oc- 
curred. 

Mr. Buchanan called about 2 O'Clock on busi- 
ness; & shortly afterwards Mr. Walker, the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, came in. Montgomery Blair * 
& Martin Van Buren jr. sent up their card and [I] 
directed them to be shown in. The Secretary of the 
Treasury had been to the capitol and stated the fact 
that the committee of conference between the two 
Houses on the disagreeing votes on the question of 
notice on the Oregon question had reported an agree- 
ment which had been concurred in by both Houses 
by large majorities, there being but 10 dissenting 

1 Montgomery Blair, 1813-1883, member of the famous Blair 
family, Postmaster General under Lincoln 1 861-1864. 



348 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 April 

votes in the Senate and 46 in the House. 1 I would 
have preferred a naked notice without a preamble, 
and think it unfortunate that such a notice had not 
been authorized early in the Session of Congress. 
After all, however, Congress by authorizing the no- 
tice, have sustained the first great measure of my 
administration, though not in a form that is alto- 
gether satisfactory or one that was preferred. 

After night several members of Congress called, 
bringing with them a large number of their con- 
stituents, who called to pay their respects. Among 
other members who called were Senator Cameron, 
Mr. Wilmot & Mr. Foster of Pennsylvania, Mr. 
Sykes of N. Jersey [and] Gov. Yell of Arkansas. 
Allen Luklett of Murfreesborough, Tennessee, was 
among those who called. 

Friday, 24th April, 1846. — Saw company to-day 
until 12 O'Clock. Shortly after that hour Senator 
McDuffie of S. C. called. I met him in the parlour 
below stairs, the decrepit state of his health being 
such as to make it inconvenient for him to ascend 
the stairs and see me in my office. His object was, 
as he said, to express to me his own opinion freely 
upon the Oregon question, without asking me to de- 
clare what course I intended to take. He proceeded 
to say that in his opinion it would be wise for me 
when I gave the Notice to accompany it with a re- 
newal of the American offer of 49 ° made last sum- 
mer. He thought this would manifest our desire to 
settle the controversy & to preserve the peace, and 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 717 and 721. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 349 

that there was no point of honor as the question now 
stood to prevent me from doing so. After expressing 
his opinion fully upon these points I told him I 
would give the notice as I was authorized to do 
by the joint Resolution of Congress, but that I would 
not accompany it with any offer on our part. I 
called his attention to the various steps which had 
been taken by the last and the present administra- 
tions in the late negotiation, and that the U. S. hav- 
ing made the last offer, an offer which had been 
rejected by the Brittish Plenipotentiary, the next 
offer, if one was made, must come from the Brittish 
Government. I told him I had no expectation that 
G. B. would make any offer until the final action 
of Congress on the notice was known in England. 
I told him I had been satisfied of this for the last 
two months. I then stated to him confidentially that 
if G. B. made an offer of 49 ° or what was equivalent 
to it, or with slight modifications, I would feel it 
to be my duty to submit such proposition to the 
Senate for their previous advice before I took any 
action on it. With this course he appeared to be 
satisfied. We had a long conversation about our 
Mexican relations, the tariff, the Independent Treas- 
ury, &c. 

After Mr. McDuffie retired, I was prevented from 
attending to my regular business on my table by 
several persons whose importunities to see me out 
of my regular hours induced me to yield to their 
wishes. Their business was chiefly about office & 
the day was unprofitably spent. At 5 O'Clock the 
Attorney General called with his carriage and I took 



3SO JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 April 

a ride with him and Majr. A. J. Donelson, U. S. 
Minister to Prussia, across the Potomac to see the 
fishermen drawing the seine. On our return I spent 
half an hour at Judge Mason's residence. 

This was reception evening, and about an hundred 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, members of Congress, 
foreigners, citizens & strangers called. Among them 
was the French Minister, who brought with him and 
introduced to me the Baron de Suypar, 1 late Min- 
ister of France to Mexico. It was this person who 
by his intervention with the Mexican Government 
induced that Government to agree to recognize the 
independence of Texas last year, upon condition that 
Texas would agree not to annex herself to any other 
country. It happened that A. J. Donelson, Esqr., 
late U. S. Charge d'Affaires to Texas, who had 
contributed largely to defeat the French and English 
policy in regard to Texas, and Ex President Hous- 
ton of Texas, now U. S. Senator, were in the room 
and I introduced them to the Baron d'Cuypre and 
had a hearty laugh on the subject with Mr. Pageot, 
the French Minister. We agreed that it was a 
little remarkable that these persons should have met 
in the President's mansion so soon after the events 
had transpired in which they had borne so prominent 
a part. 

The Hon. Romulus M. Saunders, U. S. Minister 
to Spain, called on me to-day. He had proceeded 
thus far on his mission. 

The Post Master General called on me early this 
morning and expressed apprehensions that the arti- 

1 Baron Alleye de Cyprey. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 351 

cle in last evening's Union on the question of the 
passing of the Notice Resolutions in Congress would 
give dissatisfaction to some of the Democratic mem- 
bers. I told him I had known nothing of the article 
until it had appeared in the paper, and upon a 
casual reading of it this morning there were por- 
tions of it which I did not approve. Mr. Ritchie 
called afterwards & I told him the article I thought 
was exceptionable. He was much concerned about 
it, & said it had been prepared in hurry and con- 
fusion at a late hour of the night. Mr. Buchanan 
afterwards called and informed me that there was 
extensive dissatisfaction among some of the Demo- 
cratic members of Congress whom he had seen. Mr. 
Buchanan said if Blair could be associated with 
Ritchie in conducting the paper it would be a strong 
paper; and that Blair would whip in Democrats in 
Congress, who were disposed to fly off from their 
party and join the Whigs. I told him that such an 
arrangement would never do, for that neither 
Ritchie [n]or Blair would be willing to yield the 
control of the paper to the other. I told him also 
that I had no doubt, if such a suggestion was made 
to Mr. Ritchie, that he would instantly retire from 
the paper, under the impression that his management 
of it was not satisfactory to the administration. I 
told him Mr. Ritchie meant well, but might occa- 
sionally make mistakes, but he was always ready to 
correct them when informed of them. I had on 
yesterday spoken to Mr. Buchanan to prepare a 
proper article, on the passage of the notice resolu- 
tions, and the proceedings in Congress in relation to 



352 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 April 

them. Mr. Buchanan now informed me that he 
had this morning early written part of an article, 
but that before he finished it the Union was brought 
to him and he was so much dissatisfied with it that 
he had written no more. I expressed my regret 
that he had not finished it. He told me also that 
he had an article in his pocket written by Judge 
Shields, which at my request he read. It was very 
severe upon Mr. Calhoun and the minority of Dem- 
ocratic Senators who had united with the Whigs & 
defeated the House Resolutions of notice. I told 
Mr. B. that though I disapproved the course of Mr. 
Calhoun and the minority of Democrats who had 
acted with him, I could not approve the article be- 
cause I thought it too denunciatory and severe. Mr. 
B. on reflection concurred with me that it was so, 
and ought not to be published. At my request Mr. 
Buchanan walked to his office & brought his own 
unfinished article which he read. It, too, was harsh 
and severe upon Mr. Calhoun & the minority who 
had acted with him. Mr. B. said he had written it 
under strong feelings of disapprobation of their 
course, but on reading it over it would not do, and 
immediately tore it up and threw it into the fire. 
I then read the commencement of an explanatory 
article of that in yesterday's Union, which I had 
hastily sketched during the few minutes Mr. B. had 
been absent. Mr. B. approved it and requested me 
to finish it. I told him I would do so, and requested 
him to call at six O'Clock. I finished the article 
& gave it to Col. Walker, who copied it. Mr. 
Ritchie called at dark & talked over the matter, and 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



353 



I gave him the article copied by Col. Walker to 
make what out of it he pleased. It is the second or 
third time since I have been President that I have 
sketched an article for the paper. I did so in this 
instance to allay if possible the excitement which I 
learned the article in yesterday's Union had produced 
among the Democratic members. 

Mr. Buchanan, I learned from a note which he 
left on my table, had called during my ride with 
Judge Mason. 

SATURDAY, 25th April, 1846.— The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
I brought before the Cabinet the subject of the 
Joint Resolution of Congress authorizing me " in 
my discretion " to give to the Government of Great 
Brittain notice to abrogate the Convention of the 
6th of August, 1827, concerning the Oregon Terri- 
tory. I stated that I had determined to give the 
notice without delay, and that in my judgment it 
was proper to give it to the Brinish Government in 
England and not to the Brittish Plenopotentiary 
here. In this the Cabinet were agreed. Mr. Bu- 
chanan had suggested to me on yesterday that the 
notice should be given to the Earl of Aberdeen, 
Her Brittanic Majesty's Minister for Foreign af- 
fairs. To this I had objected upon the ground that 
as the Executive Chief Magistrate of the U. S. I 
could hold no communication with a subordinate 
minister of the Government of Great Brittain, but 
that any communication from the President must be 
addressed directly to the Sovereign of that country. 



354 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 April 

In this the Cabinet were agreed, Mr. Buchanan 
having yielded his suggestion made to me on yester- 
day. It was agreed that Mr. Buchanan should pre- 
pare the form of notice, to be submitted to the 
Cabinet at their next meeting so as to be in time 
to be transmitted to Mr. McLane at London by the 
Steamer of the 1st proximo, to be by him delivered 
to the constituted authorities of the Government of 
Great Brittain. 

I next brought before the Cabinet the state of our 
relations with Mexico, and stated that I thought it 
was my duty to make a communication to Congress 
on the subject without unnecessary delay. I ex- 
pressed my opinion that we must take redress for 
the injuries done us into our own hands, that we 
had attempted to conciliate Mexico in vain, and 
had forborne until forbearance was no longer either 
a virtue or patriotic; and that in my opinion we 
must treat all nations, whether great or small, strong 
or weak, alike, and that we should take a bold and 
firm course towards Mexico. I first asked Mr. 
Buchanan his opinion. He concurred with me, and 
thought I [should] recommend a declaration of 
war. The other members of the Cabinet did not 
dissent, but concurred in the opinion that a message 
to Congress should be prepared and submitted to 
them in the course of the next week. I then stated 
the points which should be presented in the mes- 
sage, and requested Mr. Buchanan to collect the 
materials in his Department & prepare the draft of 
a message for my consideration. 

The case of Lieut. Hurst, who was dismissed from 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 355 

the Navy for fighting a duel with a junior officer 
under his command during the last year, was brought 
up for consideration. It appeared from numerous 
testimonials of many officers of the Navy and others 
that the universal opinion was that he had been 
properly dismissed from the service, but that having 
already suffered severely and there being mitigating 
circumstances in his case, it would be proper to re- 
store him. The Secretary of the Treasury, who 
upon a former occasion when the question of his 
restoration was before the Cabinet, had objected, 
withdrew his objections and gave his assent to his 
restoration. The Secretary of State, who upon the 
same occasion had expressed doubts on the subject, 
was now satisfied and earnestly recommended his 
restoration, as did also the Secretary of War, the 
Secretary of the Navy, & the Attorney General. 
The Post Master General was not present when this 
case was considered. After these opinions had been 
expressed I stated that I would nominate him to the 
Senate for his former rank. 

The Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock P. M. 
Senator Allen called shortly after the Cabinet re- 
tired. I had a long and interesting conversation 
with him in reference to our Mexican relations and 
the Oregon question. Upon the latter I told him 
I should give the notice to terminate the Conven- 
tion of the 6th of Aug., 1827, without delay, and 
for that purpose would send the official notification 
to that effect to the U. S. Minister at London to be 
delivered to the proper authorities, by the Steamer 
of the 1st proximo. I told Mr. Allen that the au- 



356 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 April 

thority to give the notice had not passed Congress 
in a satisfactory form or in one that I preferred, as 
he knew from what I had before told him. I told 
him that failing to have authority to give a naked 
notice, or in the form of the House Resolutions, I 
preferred to have the authority in the form in which 
it had been passed to no notice, and that in this I 
had differed with him. He preferred no notice 
rather than have it in the form in which it passed, 
and had voted against it, whilst I preferred to 
have it come in that form rather than to have no 
notice. 

Mr. Allen spoke strongly against Mr. Ritchie's 
course in conducting the Union, and said the Dem- 
ocratic party were broken up unless there was a 
new Editor of that paper, and went so far as to say 
that Mr. Ritchie could not now get five votes for 
public printer out of the Calhoun faction in either 
House of Congress. I told him that Mr. Ritchie 
was honest in his efforts to sustain our doctrines and 
our party, & that he had not identified himself either 
with the Calhoun or any other faction of the party, 
but that he had been labouring to keep the whole 
party united and harmonious; that doubtless he had 
committed errors as all other men in his situation 
would, but that he readily corrected them when he 
discovered them. He said he ought, if he remained 
at the head of the paper, to have some bold and 
strong man associated with him, and suggested 
Francis P. Blair as the man, as Mr. Buchanan had 
done on yesterday. I told him Mr. Blair would 
not do; that in addition to public reasons which ex- 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 357 

isted for making it, there were reasons of a personal 
character which made the change proper when Mr. 
Ritchie succeeded Blair last year. These reasons 
were in substance, that Mr. Blair's course as Editor 
of the Globe for several years had indicated any- 
thing rather than personal or political friendship for 
me. I told him that if he had continued to be the 
Editor of the Globe I had every reason to believe 
that he would have labored more to advance the 
ambitious aspirations of others than to promote the 
glory and success of my administration, and that on 
this account, as well as for the reason that he had 
rendered himself odious to a large portion of the 
Democratic party, I did not desire him to remain 
the Editor of the Globe. If he had remained I 
could not have regarded him as my friend & could 
have had no confidential communication with him. 
Mr. Allen said that he had always heard Blair 
speak well of me. I stated to him some facts which 
satisfied me that I was not mistaken. Among others 
I stated that when I was nominated by the Tennessee 
Legislature in 1840 and by a Democratic State con- 
vention in the same year as Vice President on Mr. 
Van Buren's ticket, he had not even published these 
proceedings in his paper; that he had been requested 
to do so by my friends & had failed to do so. I told 
him this was not all, but that numerous other public 
meetings in different parts of the Union had named 
me for Vice President and no notice whatever had 
been taken of them, while at the same time similar 
notices of others were readily inserted in his paper. 
I told him the studied omission in my case whilst 



358 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 April 

similar notices of others were readily inserted in his 
paper could not have been accidental. I told Mr. 
Allen that this systematic neglect continued up to 
the period of my nomination to the Presidency, and 
that for two months after that nomination the Globe 
was cold and lukewarm in its support. I reminded 
Mr. Allen that when I was defeated for Governor 
of Tennessee in 1843, the Globe coolly laid me on 
the shelf by stating that when I redeemed my own 
State the Democratic party would remember me, & 
this, too, after I had fought three hard battles in Ten- 
nessee in sustaining Mr. Van Buren & our princi- 
ples; and again, in January, 1844, the Globe had 
published a violent article disparaging my claims to 
the Vice Presidency; I stated [to] him other facts 
which satisfied me that Mr. Blair was no friend of 
my advancement, and I had reason to believe that 
he would not have given a hearty support to my 
administration if he had continued to edit the Globe. 
I repeated to Mr. Allen that Mr. Ritchie was hon- 
est and faithful to the Democratic party, & that he 
would very soon procure an assistant Editor. Mr. 
Allen suggested Col. Medary l of Ohio as a proper 
[person]. I remarked that Col. M. was [an] effi- 
cient editor, but that I could not tell whom Mr. 
Ritchie would procure. It strikes me as Mr. Bu- 
chanan and Mr. Allen have both, the one on yes- 

1 Probably Samuel Medary, editor of the Ohio Sun, founded 
in 1828 as a Jackson paper; editor of the Ohio Statesman 1836- 
1857; chairman of the Ohio delegation to the Baltimore Con- 
vention, 1844, where he read Jackson's letter urging Polk's nom- 
ination. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 359 

terday and the other to-day, suggested Blair as as- 
sociate Editor of the Union, that there must have 
been some understanding and concert between them 
on the subject. The truth is, the desire to get con- 
trol of the Union has reference to the next Presi- 
dential election. Mr. Ritchie will not answer the 
purpose of aspiring politicians because he will not 
lend himself to any of the factions who look more 
to their own advancement than to the public good. 
These schemings of politicians do more to embarrass 
my administration than all other causes. 

Col. Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky called to- 
day and was received in my office before the Cabinet 
dispersed. He remained but a few minutes. 

In the course of my conversation with Mr. Allen 
to-day I expressed my regret at having learned that 
some members of the Democratic party in Congress 
had indulged in unworthy expressions of doubt as 
to my sincerity in my course on the Oregon question. 
I told him they were doing both themselves and me 
injustice; that as I had told him (Mr. Allen) at 
the beginning of the session of Congress, my course 
was settled. I told him I could but repeat to him 
what I had then said, and that was, that I would 
make no proposition to G. B.; that if G. B. made 
to me a proposition for 49 I would submit it to 
the Senate for their previous advice before I acted 
on it. I told him I would give the notice & then 
act as I had told him I would, a course of action 
which he had himself approved. I told him that 
I deeply regretted the divisions of the Democratic 
party on the subject, & I might have added, but I 



3 6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 April 

did not, that these divisions grew out of aspirations 
for the Presidency in 1848. 

SUNDAY, 26th April, 1846. — Attended the 1st 
Presbyterian church to-day with Mrs. Polk and my 
brother-in-law, Mr. James Walker, and my sister, 
Mrs. Walker, of Columbia, Tennessee. 

MONDAY, 27th April, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour de- 
voted myself to the business on my table until my 
dinner hour. In the course of the day a committee 
of Congress called and presented to me the Joint 
Resolution passed by Congress authorizing the no- 
tice to be given to Great Brittain to Abrogate the 
convention of 1827 on the subject of the Oregon 
Territory. I approved & signed the Resolution. 1 
It was not in the form which I preferred, but still 
it authorized the notice to be given. I would have 
preferred a simple naked Resolution. Mr. Bu- 
chanan called and as it had been unofficially known 
that the Resolution had passed on thursday last, he 
had, as I had requested him, prepared the form [of] 
a notice to be given to the Brittish Government. I 
caused the form which he had prepared to be 
changed by striking out all except the recital [of 
the resolution] itself, and the formal announcement 
to the Brittish Government that the notice was 
thereby given. Mr. Buchanan also read a draft of 
a despatch 2 to Mr. McLane which he had prepared 

1 U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 109-110. 

2 Moore, Buchanan, 471-472. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 361 

to accompany the notice. I suggested modifications 
of the despatch, which were made. The principal 
of the modifications was that if any further pro- 
posal was made for the adjustment of the Oregon 
question it must proceed from the Brittish Govern- 
ment. 

At 6 O'Clock P. M. I took a ride on horseback 
with the Secretary of War and my nephew, Mar- 
shall Walker. On my return I met Senator Cass 
near my door, who said he had called to see me but 
would call again at some other time. I told him 
I would see him then, and invited him to my office. 
When in the office he stated his business, which he 
said he wished me to regard as confidential. He 
said that Senator Allen had called on him that day 
and told him that he and many of the Democratic 
members of Congress desired to start a new Demo- 
cratic paper at Washington; that Blair & Rives were 
the persons that they wished to conduct it by con- 
verting the Congressional Globe into a daily paper. 
Gen'l Cass said he had evaded a direct answer to 
Mr. Allen, but that he was opposed to the project. 
He said the reasons of this movement was the course 
of Mr. Ritchie on the Oregon question. I told 
Gen'l Cass that the only effect of establishing a 
Democratic paper at Washington would be still 
more to distract and divide the Democratic party, 
and would, if persisted in, result in the defeat of the 
party and the success of the Whigs in 1848. Gen'l 
Cass said he entirely concurred with me in this opin- 
ion, and urged me to bring the matter before the 
Cabinet on to-morrow, and take means to defeat or 



362 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 April 

prevent the movement if possible. He added that 
he would use his exertions in a prudent way to 
prevent it. I told Gen'l Cass that if such a paper 
were established under the auspices of Blair & Rives 
he could readily see that it would be a Van Buren 
and Wright paper & would be so understood by the 
country at the outset, and would be regarded as the 
beginning of the next Presidential campaign. He 
agreed that this was so. I told him that it could 
not be, in the nature of things, honestly the supporter 
of my administration, and that the only effect would 
be to divide still more than it now was the Demo- 
cratic party and to enable the Whigs by our divisions 
and internal feuds to triumph in 1848. To all this 
Gen'l Cass agreed. 

I learned to-night that the nomination of J. Geo, 
Harris 1 of Tennessee had been brought up in Execu- 
tive Session of the Senate, and had been violently 
opposed by Mr. Jarnegan and Mr. Turney, the Sen- 
ators from Tennessee. I was not surprised at Jarne- 
gan's opposition, but was greatly so that Turney had 
opposed him. 

TUESDAY, 28th 'April, 1846. — Gen'l Cass called 
before the meeting of the Cabinet this morning, and 
requested me not to bring the project of establishing 

1 Editor of the Nashville Union, Polk's organ in Tennessee. 
Upon the defeat of the Jackson-Polk faction in Tennessee in 1836 
most of the Democratic papers of the state went with the vic- 
torious faction. As a part of the preparation by the defeated 
faction for the recovery of the state in 1839 the Union was pur- 
chased and Harris was called from Boston to conduct it. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 363 

a new paper under the auspices of Blair & Rives be- 
fore the Cabinet to-day, as he had requested me to do 
last evening. I told him I would not do so. He 
said he thought he could induce Mr. Allen to aban- 
don it. 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting; all the mem- 
bers present except the P. M. Gen'l who came in be- 
tween 1 and 2 O'Clock, and after the business of the 
meeting had been chiefly transacted. The notice to 
Great Brittain to abrogate the Convention of 1827 
on the Oregon question in the form in which it had 
been agreed upon by Mr. Buchanan & myself on 
yesterday, was read by Mr. Buchanan and was con- 
curred in by the Cabinet. I signed the notice in 
duplicate. Mr. Buchanan read the despatch con- 
taining instructions to Mr. McLane in relation to 
the delivery of the notice, which had been prepared 
in accordance with my consultation with him on yes- 
terday. 

The Mexican question was next discussed, & it was 
the unanimous opinion of the Cabinet that a message 
should be sent to Congress laying the whole subject 
before them and recommending that measures be 
adopted to take redress into our own hands for the 
aggravated wrongs done to our citizens in their per- 
sons and property by Mexico. I requested Mr. Bu- 
chanan to prepare from the archives of the Depart- 
ment of State a succinct history of these wrongs as a 
basis of a message to Congress, at his earliest con- 
venience. 

I received to-day about twenty Methodist clergy- 
men in a body, chiefly from the West, who were in- 



364 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 April 

troduced by the Rev. Mr. Slicer. 1 They were on 
their way to the general conference of the Methodist 
Church of the Southern States, to be holden at Peters- 
burg, Va., the latter part of this week. 

This being reception evening an hundred or more 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, 
citizens and strangers called. Among others a num- 
ber of clergimen of the Methodist clergimen 
[Church] called, among whom were the Rev. Mr. 
Payne, Pres't of La Grange College, Alabama, the 
Rev. Mr. McMahon of Mississippi, & the Rev. 
Mr. Harris of Trenton, Tennessee. 

Mr. Senator Allen called this morning on business, 
but said nothing of his movements to establish a new 
paper at Washington as had been mentioned to me 
on yesterday by Gen'l Cass. He was more solemn 
in his manner than usual, but was still apparently 
friendly. 

Wednesday, 2Qth April, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock to-day as usual. Among others saw 
Senator Turney of Tennessee, for whom I had sent 
by my Private Secretary on yesterday. I had a long 
conversation with him concerning the nomination of 
J. Geo. Harris as purser in the Navy, in which I 
urged him to give up his opposition to his confirma- 
tion. He could assign no satisfactory reason for op- 
posing him. All the reason he finally assigned was 
the stale and often repeated charge of abolitionism, 

1 Henry Slicer, elected chaplain of the Senate in 1837 an d 
again in 1846. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 365 

which had been used for political effect by the Whigs 
of Tennessee for the last five or six years. This I 
considered a mere pretext for opposing him, but I 
did not think it prudent to excite him by telling him 
so. He finally said he would give a silent vote 
against [him], but would say if called on that he had 
no specific charges to make against him, that he was 
a man of fair private character, of good talents, and 
a consistent democrat. He said he would state 
further in conversation with Democratic Senators 
that he had no objection to his confirmation. The 
real cause of Mr. T.'s opposition to Mr. Harris's con- 
firmation I suspect grows out of the belief that Har- 
ris was opposed to Turney's election to the Senate of 
the U. S. 

Gen'l Cass called again this morning and informed 
me that he had held another conversation with Sen- 
ator Allen on the subject of his (A.'s) project to es- 
tablish a new paper at Washington, and he thought 
he would finally abandon it. 

Despatches were received to-day from the army 
[of] occupation on the Del Norte in Texas; and a 
private letter from Mr. McLane in England of the 
10th Instant, brought out by the Great Western. 
Mr. Buchanan called & I had a conversation with 
him on both subjects. 

I devoted the balance of the day to the business on 
my table and, what is rare with me, had no calls after 
night. 

Mr. Senator Allen called this morning on business 
but made no mention to me of his intention to estab- 



366 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 April 

lish a new paper at Washington, as had been men- 
tioned to me by Gen'l Cass on yesterday and the day 
before. 

Several clergimen of the Methodist Church called 
on me this morning, on their way to the General Con- 
ference at Petersburg, Va. Among them was the 
Rev. John McFarrin l and his brother & the Rev. 
Mr. Hannah, of Tennessee. 

Thursday, 30th April, 1846. — Saw company 
this morning until 12 O'Clock. The Ho. of Repts., 
I learned, met at 9 O'Clock A. M. and immediately 
adjourned. Many members called immediately 
after that hour. A few minutes after 12 O'Clock be- 
tween 100 & 200 mail contractors or persons bidding 
for contracts, preceded by the Post Master Gen'l and 
his assistants, the Auditor of the Post Office and 
chief Clerks, attended by the Mayor of Washington, 
entered the Presidential Mansion in a body. They 
were received by me in the East Room, and I was 
introduced to them individually. After spending 
half an hour in conversation with them they retired. 
The contractors in attendance were from the South- 
ern and South Western section of the Union. 

The principal instructor of an institution in New 
York for the instruction of the blind, accompanied 
by his assistant instructors and between 20 and 30 
blind pupils, male and female, called on me at ij4 
O'Clock P. M. I received them in the Circular 

1 John Berry McFerrin, editor of the Christian Advocate 1840- 
1858, author of a History of Methodism in Tennessee, pub- 
lished in i87P, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 367 

parlour, and witnessed an exhibition of the blind in 
literature. They read from the bible printed in 
raised letters with facility. In arithmetic some of 
them were well educated. They conversed intelli- 
gibly. The most remarkable person among them was 
a female named Bridgman * who had been taught by 
signs with the hands and fingers to understand and 
communicate ideas and to write. She was about 16 
years old and was deaf and dumb as well as blind. 
Altogether it was an interesting exhibition, and im- 
pressed me sensibly with the benevolence and great 
value of the discovery by which these unfortunate 
persons could be taught to understand and communi- 
cate their thoughts. The[y] conversed intelligibly 
and read the Scriptures well. One of the females 
performed on the piano; one of the males (a boy) on 
the violin, and several of them sung well. Col. Rich- 
ard M. Johnson of Ky., who was in my office when 
they called, and several other persons who happened 
to call were present during their visit. Among 
others, Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish Minister, called 
and introduced two friends from Nova Scotia. A. 
J. Donelson, U. S. Minister to Prussia, also called to 
take leave, as he was about to leave the City this after- 
noon for New York whence he would embark on 
his mission. Mr. Senator Lewis of Alabama also 
called. After spending near an hour the blind 
pupils and their instructors retired, as did the visitors 
who had called except Mr. Lewis, who accompanied 
me to my office. Mr. Lewis had at my request been 
invited to call on me by my Private Secretary a day 

1 Laura Dewey Bridgeman, 1 829-1 889. 



368 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 April 

or two ago. Mr. Lewis is Chairman of the Com- 
mittee of finance in the Senate. I told him my ob- 
ject in requesting him to call was to converse with 
him about two leading measures now before Con- 
gress in charge of his Committee. They were the 
Constitutional Treasury and the Tariff. I told him 
I had observed from the published proceedings in the 
Senate that he had announced in reply to an inter- 
rogatory from Webster that he intended to postpone 
action on the Constitutional Treasury Bill until after 
the Ware-House Bill and the Bill to establish a 
Branch Mint in New York & Charleston, S. C, were 
acted on, and that I feared if that was done that both 
the Treasury Bill & the reduction of the tariff would 
be postponed to so late a period of the Session as to 
endanger their passage. I told him I was in favour 
of the Ware-House and Mint Bills, but I respect- 
fully suggested to him not to give them precedence 
over the other two more important measures, viz., the 
Constitutional Treasury & Tariff Bills. My sug- 
gestions seemed to strike him forcibly, and he said 
if he perceived any danger of the result which I ap- 
prehended he would press action on the two more 
important measures first. I then told him that I had 
great anxiety for the passage of the Constitutional 
Treasury Bill and the reduction of the Tariff, which 
I had recommended in my annual message. I told 
him that I considered them as administration meas- 
ures and that I intended to urge them upon Congress 
as such, and that I considered the public good, as 
well as my own power and the glory of my adminis- 
tration, depended in a great degree upon my success 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 369 

in carrying them through Congress. He agreed 
with me in these views. I then told him that in 
minor matters I hoped such a course would not be 
taken as to irritate members of Congress and put 
their success in jeopardy. Among these minor mat- 
ters I mentioned the appointments to office which 
were before the Senate on my nomination. I told 
him I had no personal feeling in relation to these 
nominations except as to one or two of them, and 
that I wished him to understand that I did not de- 
sire to influence his course in regard to them con- 
trary to his judgment. I told him however that 
Northern men attached more importance to appoint- 
ments than Southern men did and that if Southern 
Senators undertook to defeat nominations in the 
North made on the recommendation of Northern 
Senators it would excite them, and impair if not de- 
stroy my power to be useful in effecting the passage 
of the Bill to reduce the tariff and the Constitutional 
Treasury Bill. I reminded him that Mr. Jefferson's 
plan was to conciliate the North by the dispensation 
of his patronage, and to rely on the South to support 
his principles for the sake of these principles. I told 
Mr. Lewis that I had appointed to office in the South 
such persons as Southern Senators and others had 
recommended, and that Northern Senators had made 
no resistance to them; that the South had obtained all 
they desired in this respect. I told him that in the 
North I had acted in like manner; that I had made 
the nominations upon the recommendations of North- 
ern Democratic Senators and others, & asked him 
why Southern Democratic Senators should unite with 



370 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 April 

the undivided Whig party in the Senate to defeat 
them. Mr. Lewis [could] not gainsay the truth of 
these remarks, but said that Mr. Calhoun's friends 
had been turned out and other Democrats put in in 
a few instances, and that in this justice had not been 
done to Mr. Calhoun. I told him I had made no 
nominations in reference to men and their aspira- 
tions for the next Presidency and that I would not do 
so. I told him he was wholly mistaken in his im- 
pression that Mr. Calhoun's friends as such had been 
proscribed by me, but that on the contrary, the fullest 
justice had been done them & specified several in- 
stances to satisfy him that this was so. He then com- 
plained that I had turned Mr. Calhoun out of the 
Cabinet, and said all Mr. Calhoun's friends con- 
demned it. I told him I had turned no one out of 
Mr. Tyler's cabinet, but that I had deemed it proper 
upon my accession to the Presidency to form a new 
Cabinet, that the country expected this, and that 
surely it ought to be no cause of offence to any one. 
I told him that Judge Mason, it was true, had been 
retained as Attoy. Gen'l but that this was with the 
full approval of the other members of Mr. Tyler's 
Cabinet, who knew that he was my College associate 
and personal friend, and that on these accounts I de- 
sired to have him near me. I saw that the reason 
why Mr. Lewis and other Southern Senators had 
been joining the Whigs to defeat some of my nomi- 
nations of men who were unexceptionable was solely 
because Mr. Calhoun had not been retained in my 
Cabinet, and because they suspected, but without 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 371 

cause, that I was favoring the friends of some other 
aspirant to the Presidency. I told Mr. Lewis 
plainly that if the Southern Senators continued to 
pursue this course, they would endanger the passage 
of the two great measures, the Constitutional Treas- 
ury Bill and the reduction of the tariff. I told 
him that I was, as he conceeded, the first President 
who had taken bold ground and fully satisfied the 
South on the tariff, and that whilst I had done this 
Southern Senators were embarrassing me by their op- 
position to my nominations simply because they were 
not supposed to be the friends of particular men for 
the next Presidency. I submitted to him whether 
this was wise, and whether instead of thus weaken- 
ing me, they ought not to cease their opposition upon 
these small matters in which no principle was in- 
volved, for the sake of enabling me to carry out the 
great measures which did involve principle, which I 
had recommended in my message. In the course of 
the conversation I expressed some anxiety that Mr. 
Horn should be confirmed as Collector at Phil'a, Mr. 
J. Geo. Harris as purser in the Navy, and Gov. Mor- 
ton as Collector at Boston. 

After Mr. Lewis retired Mr. Brokenbrough 1 of 
Florida called to see me in relation to appointments 
in that State. 

My nephew, Lucius Marshall Walker, of Tennes- 
see left for West Point, having been appointed a 
cadet at the Military Academy at that place. 

1 William H. Brockenbrough, Representative from Florida 
1845-1847. 



372 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i May 

Friday, 1st May, 1846. — Saw company as usual 
until 12 O'Clock to-day. Among others Mrs. Cass, 
wife of Senator Cass, called to request me to appoint 
her son a Charge d'Affaires abroad. I note this 
among the numerous applications for office because 
it struck me with surprise that such a person as Mrs. 
C. should have called in person. 

Mr. Vice President Dallas called shortly after 12 
O'Clock and showed me a letter addressed to him by 
Mr. Richard Rush l of Philadelphia. It was in 
answer to one which Mr. Dallas had addressed to 
Mr. Rush on the Oregon question. In his letter Mr. 
Rush expressed the opinion that in communicating 
the notice to Great Brittain to abrogate the Treaty 
of 1827, I should renew the offer of the 49 ° made 
last summer. After I had read the letter I asked 
Mr. Dallas his opinion, who said he concurred with 
Rush. He said, although a 54 40' man so far as 
the abstract question of title was concerned, that yet 
after all that had occurred in the several negotiations 
between the two Governments he thought I ought to 
renew the proposition of 49 which I made last sum- 
mer. I told him that the notice had been despatched 
to England; that I had given it in terms of the Reso- 
lution of Congress, but had not accompanied it with 
any proposition for negotiation. I told him if any 
proposition of the kind was made it must proceed 
from the Brinish Government. Mr. Dallas still 
thought it would have been proper for me to have 

1 Richard Rush of Pennsylvania, 1 780-1859, minister to Eng- 
land 181 7-1825, Secretary of the Treasury under John Quincy 
Adams 1825-1829, minister to France 1847-1851. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 373 

taken the initiative and renewed the offer of 49° as 
the basis of an adjustment. Col. Todd of Ky., late 
Envoy Extraordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary to 
Russia, called and paid his respects to-day. 

Received company in the parlour this evening. It 
was raining and not more than about 50 persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, attended. 

SATURDAY, 2nd May, 1846.— Though this was 
Cabinet day a number of persons obtained admission 
to my office on special request before the Cabinet con- 
vened. Among others Mr. Speaker Davis of the 
Ho. Repts. called. He mentioned to me a project 
which within the last day or two had been spoken of 
in conversation among members of the House to ad- 
journ Congress to meet on the first of October. I 
told him I had observed in the National Intelligencer 
of this morning an article to that effect, and that I 
understood it as a Whig manoeuvre thrown out as a 
feeler. I told him that I was decidedly opposed to 
any such movement, and I hoped it would receive 
no favour from any Democratic member. I told 
him that the Democratic party were in a majority in 
Congress and would be held responsible for what- 
ever was done, and that they should never adjourn 
until they had acted definitely on all the measures, 
Foreign and Domestic, which I had brought before 
them in my annual message. I told him if it were 
possible for the united Whig party aided by a few 
democrats to pass such a measure that my present im- 
pression was that I would put my veto upon it. I 
stated to him at some length the grounds of my ob- 



374 JAMES K. PQLK'S DIARY [2 May 

jections to such a step and urged him to use his in- 
fluence to prevent it. He expressed his concurrence 
with me in opinion & said he would do so. 

The Cabinet convened at the usual hour. The 
Post Master General and Attorney General were late 
coming in. Mr. Buchanan stated that he was much 
engaged in his office and would retire unless some- 
thing of importance was to be brought before the 
Cabinet. I told him I had nothing of much impor- 
tance to submit to the Cabinet to-day. I stated to 
him before he retired, that I thought it would be 
proper for him to inform Mr. Pakenham that the 
Notice to abrogate the Convention of 1827 wim Great 
Brittain in relation to the Oregon Territory had been 
sent out by the Steamer of the 1st Instant to Mr. Mc- 
Lane with instructions to deliver it to the Brittish 
Government. In this the Cabinet concurred, and 
Mr. Buchanan said he would do so. 

The other members of the Cabinet remained after 
Mr. Buchanan retired and conversed about various 
matters of minor importance connected with their 
duties in their respective offices. They retired about 
2 O'Clock P. M. 

Mr. Pageot, the French Minister, called to-day in 
full dress to announce to me the birth of a Grandchild 
of the King of the French, and delivered to me an 
autograph letter of the King of the French conveying 
the information. As this was the third or fourth 
time a similar annunciation had been made, I re- 
marked to the Minister that I congratulated him on 
these frequent accessions to the number of the Royal 
family. He pleasantly replied that this was not the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 375 

last case of the kind that would occur. To Ameri- 
cans the importance attached to annunciations of this 
kind appears ridiculous, but as such has been hereto- 
fore the practice I must conform to the usage of my 
predecessors and give to these letters of ceremony a 
civil answer. Mr. Buchanan was present during this 
important annunciation. 

In the afternoon about 6 O'Clock P. M. the Post 
Master General called with his carriage and Mrs. 
Polk and myself took a ride with him. 

SUNDAY, 3rd May, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian Church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my nieces, Miss Rucker and Miss Walker. 

Col. Benton called this evening at 8 O'Clock 
having been requested to do so, at my instance, by my 
Private Secretary. I consulted him about the meas- 
ures proper to be taken in relation to Mexico in the 
present state of our relations with that country, stat- 
ing to him that I could not permit Congress to ad- 
journ without making a communication to them on 
the subject. After stating to him the precise state 
of the existing relations between the two countries, 
I asked his views. He said he had not made up his 
mind, that it was a difficult question to decide, but 
advised delay until the English question concerning 
Oregon was either settled or [had] been brought to 
a crisis, one of which must happen very soon. He 
expressed a decided aversion to a war with Mexico 
if it could be avoided consistently with the honour 
of the country. I told him we had ample cause of 
War, but that I was anxious to avoid it if it could 



376 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 May 

be done honourably & consistently with the interests 
of our injured citizens. I told him I would delay 
at all events until the arrival of Mr. Slidell, who was 
expected daily, but that I could not permit Congress 
to adjourn without bringing the subject before that 
body. 

In reference to the Oregon question I told him that 
the Notice had been sent to England by the Steamer 
of the 1 st Instant. I repeated to him my purpose if 
a proposition of the 49 ° or substantially that line was 
made by Great Brittain I would ask the previous ad- 
vice of the Senate. I repeated to him also that I 
could never concede the perpetual navigation of the 
Columbia River. He thought the downward navi- 
gation might be conceded, in which I differed with 
him. I expressed the desire that the Bill of the 
House extending our laws and jurisdiction over our 
citizens in Oregon should be taken up speedily and 
acted on by the Senate. I told him I had apprehen- 
sions that the Whig party in the Senate with a few 
Democrats would attempt to suppress that bill and 
defeat action upon it, and thought it ought by all 
means to be passed. He told me he would urge 
action upon it, and that he intended to discuss the 
whole Oregon subject. I told him I would be grat- 
ified if he would take charge of the Bill and urge its 
passage. He said that incongruous subjects had been 
blended together in the Bill which ought to be sep- 
erated, and each acted on by itself. He said he 
should go for 49 . I told him that on that point my 
views were expressed in my annual message, and my 
course I had already stated [to] him, if the Brittish 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 377 

Government should make substantially the offer of 
the 49 . I repeated to him that I would be grati- 
fied if he would take the matter in hand and press the 
jurisdiction Bill through the Senate. I expressed a 
desire also that the Constitutional Treasury Bill 
which had passed the Ho. Repts. should receive the 
early action of the Senate, and told him I had fears 
that it might be defeated by a combination of a few 
democrats with the Whig party. 

I told him finally that I was preparing an histor- 
ical statement of our causes of complaint against 
Mexico, with a view to be prepared to make a mes- 
sage to Congress, but that before I acted on the sub- 
ject I would show it to him and consult him as to the 
measures of redress which I should recommend. 
Col. B. was in a good humour and the interview was 
a pleasant one. 

MONDAY, 4th May, 1846. — Saw company to-day 
as usual until 12 O'Clock. Among others saw Gen'l 
Cass, who informed me that he understood that a Mr. 
Fisher of Cincinnatti had purchased or was about to 
purchase the Times newspaper of Washington, and 
that it was to be a Calhoun paper. He told me that 
he thought that Mr. Allen of the Senate had aban- 
doned the idea of starting another Democratic paper 
at Washington. 

I occupied the day after 12 O'Clock until my din- 
ner hour at 4 O'Clock in disposing of the business on 
my table. 

After night Mr. Senator Haywood of N. C. called, 
& I had a long conversation with him about various 



378 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 May 

public subjects now before Congress. I urged upon 
him the importance of the early action of the Senate 
on the Oregon jurisdiction Bill which passed the Ho. 
Repts. some days ago. I found him disinclined to 
take it up. 

I told him that it was one of the series of measures 
on the Oregon question which I had recommended in 
my annual Message, that it had been passed by the 
votes of more than three fourths of the Ho. Repts., 
and from all the evidences before us I could not 
doubt was approved by the country. I told him the 
Whig party in the Senate for party purposes might 
and probably would oppose it, and that it would be 
most unfortunate if a small minority of the Demo- 
cratic Senators should unite with them & succeed in 
defeating [it.] I told him that I had authorized the 
Notice to be given to G. B. to abrogate the Conven- 
tion of 1827 under the authority conferred on me by 
the Resolution of Congress, and asked him if it was 
possible that the Senate intended to leave our citizens 
in Oregon to remain without the protection of our 
laws. He still resisted the measure, when I became 
very earnest in urging him to reconsider his course, 
and stated to him plainly that if this great measure 
was resisted by a majority of the Senate I would make 
an issue with that body before the country. He left 
without giving me any assurance that he would 
change the views which he had expressed, but said 
he would examine the subject further. In the course 
of Mr. Haywood's conversation he expressed the 
opinion to me that Mr. Calhoun was opposed to my 
administration. Of this I had suspicions before. I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 379 

told Mr. H. that he was an old friend & that I most 
anxiously desired to save him from uniting with Mr. 
Calhoun and the Whigs proper in opposing this lead- 
ing measure of my administration. 

TUESDAY, 5th May, 1846. — The Cabinet met to- 
day, it being their regular day of meeting; all the 
members being present. Several matters of minor 
importance were considered. Our Mexican diffi- 
culties, the condition of our army on the Del Norte, 
and the possibility of a collision between the Ameri- 
can & Mexican forces were the subject of Conver- 
sation, but as no late advices from Gen'l Taylor 
(the despatch of the 6th April ult. being the last) had 
been received definite action on the subject was post- 
poned. The Cabinet dispersed about 1 O'Clock 
P. M. and I devoted the balance of the day to the 
business on my table. 

The Hon. John Blair of Tennessee, with whom I 
served many years in Congress, and his son and the 
Rev. Mr. Doak, President of Greenville College, 
dined with me to-day. 

This being reception evening more than 100 per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called, & among them Mr. 
Calhoun & Mr. Senator Allen. 

Wednesday, 6th May, 1846. — Saw company un- 
til 12 O'Clock to-day. At that hour Mr. Morris, 
P. M. of the City of N. York, and Hon. Michael 
Hoffman, Naval officer at New York, called. They 
had both been elected as members of the State con- 
vention of New York to revise the constitution of 



3 8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 May 

the State, and they called to consult me & to know 
whether they could leave their official duties to at- 
tend the session of the Convention. They stated that 
they had deputies who would discharge the duties of 
their respective offices.L I told them that they would 
be held responsible for the discharge of the duties 
of their respective offices^) and that if with such re- 
sponsibility resting upon them I would not object to 
their attendance upon the convention, provided the 
public business was properly done and they would 
see that no duty was neglected and that the public in- 
terest did not suffer by their absence. They said that 
they would hold themselves thus responsible, and 
that they would moreover visit their offices at least 
once a week during the Session, which would prob- 
ably continue from 60 to 90 days. This they said 
they could do conveniently, as it was but six hours run 
from Albany to New York, and they could come 
down every Saturday evening and return on monday 
morning. They left about 1 O'Clock P. M. and [I] 
devoted the balance of the day to the current busi- 
ness on my table. 

After night despatches were received from the 
army under the command of Gen'l Taylor on the Del 
Norte as late as the 15th ult. Newspaper accounts 
were also received as late as the 19th ult. No actual 
collision had taken place, though the probabilities 
are that hostilities might take place soon. Vice 
President Dallas, the Secretary of War, Gen'l Cass, 
and Mr. Buchanan called in the course of the even- 
ing, and the Mexican question and the condition of 
our army were the chief subjects of conversation. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 381 

Thursday, yth May, 1846.— I had the usual 
round of company until 12 O'Clock to-day. Among 
them were persons begging money, others seeking 
office, and quite a number of ladies and gentlemen 
who called to pay their respects. 

Despatches were received last night from the army 
of occupation on the Del Norte, and I occupied to- 
day chiefly in examining the present state of our re- 
lations with Mexico, with a view to make a communi- 
cation on the subject to Congress. 

I prepared also my decision on a case which has ex- 
cited uncommon interest on the part of the claim- 
ants because of the great value and magnitude of the 
interests involved. It was an appeal to me from a 
decision made by the Secretary of War against a 
claim for leases on Isle Royal in Lake Superior pre- 
sented by Abel Shanck of Ohio & others. I affirmed 
the decision of the Secretary of War. (See my 
opinion in a letter addressed to the Secretary of War 
in my letter Book.) I attended also to-day to some 
other current business on my table. 

Gen'l R. M. Saunders, U. S. Minister to Spain, 
called about 1 O'Clock P. M. Gen'l S. has been 
the warm political friend of Mr. Calhoun, but ex- 
pressed himself freely in opposition to his course in 
the Senate, as indicating pretty certainly that he 
would oppose my administration. He condemned in 
strong terms his course on the Oregon question; and 
said he apprehended he would identify himself with 
the Whigs, & if he did his friends now in the South 
would abandon him & he would ruin himself. He 
said he would see Mr. Calhoun and some of his 



382 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 May 

Southern friends in Congress and talk frankly and 
freely to them, and induce them, if possible, to change 
their course. 

What is remarkable no one called to see me after 
dark to-night. It is what has rarely happened since 
the meeting of Congress. 

FRIDAY, 8th May, 1846. — Saw company until 12 
O'Clock to-day. Among others the Hon. John 
Slidell, late U. S. Minister to Mexico, called in com- 
pany with the Secretary of State. Mr. Buchanan re- 
tired after a few minutes, and Mr. Slidell remained 
about an hour in conversation concerning his mission 
and the state of our relations with Mexico. Mr. 
Slidell's opinion was that but one course towards 
Mexico was left to the U. S. and that was to take the 
redress of the wrongs and injuries which we had so 
long borne from Mexico into our own hands, and to 
act with promptness and energy. In this I agreed 
with him, and told him it was only a matter of time 
when I would make a communication to Congress on 
the subject, and that I had made up my mind to do 
so very soon. 

Gov. Bright, Senator from Indiana, & Mr. 
Wheaton of the Ho. Repts., as a committee of Con- 
gress called to present two Bills for my approval 
which had been passed by Congress. They re- 
mained a short time in conversation. Mr. Bright 
among other things stated that Mr. Wescott, the 
Senator from Florida, was much dissatisfied with my 
nomination of judicial officers in Florida. I had a 
few days ago nominated a District Judge, a Marshall, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 383 

& [a] U. S. Attorney for Florida. Senator Yulee 
and Mr. Brokenbrough of the Ho. Repts. were con- 
sulted on the subject and united upon the nominations 
of the judge and Marshall, and did not as far as I 
know differ much as to [the] U. S. Attorney. The 
nominee for U. S. Attorney met Mr. Yulee's entire 
approbation; Mr. Brokenbrough preferred Mr. 
Scott, but was not dissatisfied at the nomination which 
was made. Mr. Bright told me that Mr. Wescott 
had told him that I had turned out his brother-in-law, 
Mr. Sibley, as U. S. Atto. and that he should join the 
Whigs, and that hereafter he was a Whig. Mr. 
Bright said he told him that he (Wescott) had been 
acting and voting with the Whigs all the Session and 
therefore it was not necessary for him now to join 
them. Mr. Bright said that Mr. Turney and other 
Democrats were rejoiced that I had not nominated 
his brother-in-law, for he had given my administra- 
tion no support and deserved nothing at my hands. I 
told Mr. Bright that it was untrue that I had turned 
Mr. Wescott's brother-in-law out. I told him the 
facts were that under the Territorial Government of 
Florida, there were four or five judicial Circuits in 
Florida with each a Judge, a Marshall, & U. S. Atto., 
and that since Florida was admitted as a State they 
were all consolidated and formed but one Circuit, 
and that in making the appointments for this one 
Circuit I had not selected and appointed Mr. Wes- 
cott's brother-in-law, Mr. Sibley. Mr. Bright said 
he was glad I had not done so. He spoke of Wes- 
cott as a confirmed Whig. I told him I considered 
Mr. Wescott a Whig, and that it was a matter of in- 



384 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 May 

difference to me whether he was dissatisfied with me 
because I did not nominate his brother-in-law or not. 
This being reception evening upwards of 100 per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

SATURDAY, Qth May, 1846.— The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day; all the members present. I 
brought up the Mexican question, and the question 
of what was the duty of the administration in the 
present state of our relations with that country. The 
subject was very fully discussed. All agreed that if 
the Mexican forces at Matamoras committed any act 
of hostility on Gen'l Taylor's forces I should imme- 
diately send a message to Congress recommending an 
immediate declaration of War. I stated to the Cab- 
inet that up to this time, as they knew, we had heard 
of no open act of aggression by the Mexican army, 
but that the danger was imminent that such acts 
would be committed. I said that in v my opinion we 
had ample cause of war, and that it was impossible 
that we could stand in statu quo, or that I could re- 
main silent much longer; that I thought it was my 
duty to send a message to Congress very soon & rec- 
ommend definitive measures. I told them that I 
thought I ought to make such a message by tuesday 
next, that the country was excited and impatient on 
the subject, and if I failed to do so I would not be do- 
ing my duty. I then propounded the distinct ques- 
tion to the Cabinet and took their opinions individ- 
ually, whether I should make a message to Congress 
on tuesday, and whether in that message I should rec- 
ommend a declaration of War against Mexico. All 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 38s 

except the Secretary of the Navy gave their advice in 
the affirmative. Mr. Bancroft dissented but said if 
any act of hostility should be committed by the Mex- 
ican forces he was then in favour of immediate war. 
Mr. Buchanan said he would feel better satisfied in 
his course if the Mexican forces had or should com- 
mit any act of hostility, but that as matters stood we 
had ample cause of war against Mexico, & he gave 
his assent to the measure. It was agreed that the 
message should be prepared and submitted to the 
Cabinet in their meeting on tuesday. A history of 
our causes of complaint against Mexico had been at 
my request previously drawn up by Mr. Buchanan. 
I stated that what was said in my annual message in 
December gave that history as succinctly and satis- 
factorily as Mr. Buchanan's statement, that in truth 
it was the same history in both, expressed in different 
language, and that if I repeated that history in [a] 
message to Congress now I had better employ the pre- 
cise language used in my message of December last. 
Without deciding this point the Cabinet passed to 
the consideration of some other subjects of minor im- 
portance. The Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock 
P. M. Before they separated I directed the Secre- 
tary of State to have all the correspondence of Mr. 
Slidell with the Mexican Government, & such por- 
tions of his correspondence with the Department of 
State as it was proper to communicate copied; and in 
like manner I directed the Secretary of War to have 
all his orders to Gen'l Taylor commanding the army 
in Texas copied, so as to have these documents ready 
to be communicated to Congress with my message. 



386 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 May 

About 6 o'clock P. M. Gen'l R. Jones, the Ad- 
jutant General of the army, called and handed to me 
despatches received from Gen'l Taylor by the South- 
ern mail which had just arrived, giving information 
that a part of [the] Mexican army had crossed to the 
Del Norte, [crossed the Del Norte] and attacked and 
killed and captured two companies of dragoons of 
Gen'l Taylor's army consisting of 63 officers & men. 
The despatch also stated that he had on that day 
(26th April) made a requisition on the Governors of 
Texas & Louisiana for four Regiments each, to be 
sent to his relief at the earliest practicable period. 
Before I had finished reading the despatch, the Sec- 
retary of War called. I immediately summoned the 
Cabinet to meet at 7^ O'Clock this evening. The 
Cabinet accordingly assembled at that hour; all the 
members present. The subject of the despatch re- 
ceived this evening from Gen'l Taylor, as well as the 
state of our relations with Mexico, were fully con- 
sidered. The Cabinet were unanimously of opinion, 
and it was so agreed, that a message should be sent to 
Congress on Monday laying all the information in 
my possession before them and recommending vig- 
orous & prompt measure[s] to enable the Executive 
to prosecute the War. The Secretary of War & Sec- 
retary of State agreed to put their clerks to work to 
copy the correspondence between Mr. Slidell & the 
Mexican Government & Secretary of State and the 
correspondence between the War Department & 
Gen'l Taylor, to the end that these documents should 
be transmitted to Congress with my message on Mon- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 387 

day. The other members of the Cabinet tendered 
the services of their clerks to aid in preparing these 
copies. 

Mr. Senator Houston, Hon. Barkley Martin, & 
several other members of Congress called in the 
course of the evening, & were greatly excited at the 
news brought by the Southern mail from the army. 
They all approved the steps which had been taken by 
the administration, and were all of opinion that war 
with Mexico should now be prosecuted with vigor. 

The Cabinet adjourned about 10 O'Clock, & I 
commenced my message; Mr. Bancroft and Mr. 
Buchanan, the latter of whom had prepared a history 
of our causes of complaint against Mexico, agreed to 
assist me in preparing the message. 

SUNDAY, I Oth May, 1846. — As the public excite- 
ment in and out of Congress was very naturally very 
great, and as there was a great public necessity to 
have the prompt action of Congress on the Mexican 
question, and therefore an absolute necessity for send- 
ing my message to Congress on tomorrow, I resumed 
this morning the preparation of my message. About 
9J/2 O'Clock Mr. Bancroft called, and with his as- 
sistance I was engaged in preparing it until 11 
O'Clock, at which time I suspended my labours in 
order to attend church. I left the part of the mes- 
sage which had been written to be copied by my 
Private Secretary, and accompanied Mrs. Polk, my 
niece, Miss Rucker, & my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, 
to church. As we were leaving for church the Hon. 



388 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 May 

Mr. Haralson & the Hon. Mr. Baker, 1 members 
of the Committee of Military affairs, called to see me 
on the subject of the legislative action proper to be 
had to provide for the vigorous prosecution of the 
war with Mexico. I told them I would see them at 
5 O'Clock this afternoon. 

On my return from church about i O'Clock P. M. 
I resumed the preperation of my message. In the 
course of half an hour Mr. Bancroft & Mr. Buchanan 
called and the part of the message which had been 
written was examined & approved. At 2 O'Clock 
my family dinner was announced. I invited Mr. 
Buchanan and Mr. Bancroft to dine with me. Mr. 
Buchanan declined and Mr. Bancroft dined with me. 
After dinner Mr. Bancroft and myself returned to 
the preparation of the message. Two confidential 
Clerks, viz., H. C. Williams from the War Depart- 
ment an[d] , from the Navy Department 

were engaged in assisting my Private Secretary in 
making two copies of my message, one for the Senate 
and one for the House. 

At 5 O'Clock Mr. Haralson & Mr. Baker called 
according to the appointment made this morning. 
They informed me that deeming the present a great 
emergency they had called the Committee on Mili- 
tary affairs of the Ho. Repts. together this morning 
and that they had unanimously agreed to support a 
Bill appropriating ten millions of Dollars, and 
authorizing the President to raise fifty thousand dol- 
lars [men] to prosecute the war with Mexico. They 

1 Edward Dickinson Baker of Illinois, killed in the battle of 
Ball's Bluff, October 21, 186 1. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 389 

showed to me a copy of the Bill which they proposed 
to pass. I pointed out some defects in it & advised 
them to consult with the Secretary and officers con- 
nected with the War Department, including Gen'l 
Scott and Adj't Gen'l Jones. They said they would 
do so. I discovered in the course of the conversation 
that both Mr. Haralson and Mr. Baker desired to be 
appointed to high commands in the army of Volun- 
teers which their Bill proposed to raise. I talked 
civilly to them but made no promises. 

After night and whilst the clerks were still copying 
my message in my Private Secretary's office, the Sec- 
retaries of State, of the Treasury, of the Navy, the 
P. M. Gen'l, and [the] Atto. Gen'l called, but were 
not all present at any one time. The Secretary of 
War was indisposed as I learned, and did not call 
during the day. Senator Houston & Bartley Mar- 
tin & Ch. J. Ingersoll called to consult me on the 
Mexican question, and to learn what I intended to 
recommend in my message. The two former had re- 
tired before Mr. Ingersoll called. I addressed notes 
to Senator Allen, Ch. of the Comm. of Foreign Af- 
fairs of the Senate, & Mr. McKay of N. C, Ch. of 
the Com. of Ways and Means of the Ho. Repts. re- 
questing them to call at my office to-night. In the 
course of half an hour they called, and the message 
being copied, I read it to them and Mr. Ingersoll in 
presence of some of the members of [the] Cabinet 
who had remained. They all approved it. 

At io>4 O'Clock the company left and I retired to 
rest. It was a day of great anxiety to me, and I re- 
gretted the necessity which had existed to make it 



390 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n May 

necessary for me to spend the Sabbath in the manner 
I have. 

MONDAY, nth May, 1846. — I refused to see com- 
pany generally this morning. I carefully revised my 
message on the Mexican question, but had no time to 
read the copies of the correspondence furnished by 
the War & State Departments which was to accom- 
pany it. I had read the original correspondence and 
presume the copies are correct. 

I addressed [notes] to Senators Cass and Benton 
this morning requesting them to call. Gen'l Cass 
called first. The message was read to him and he 
highly approved it. Col. Benton called before Gen'l 
Cass left, and I gave him the copy of the message and 
he retired to an adjoining room and read it. After 
he had read it I had a conversation with him alone. 
I found he did not approve it in all its parts. He 
was willing to vote men and money for defence of 
our territory, but was not prepared to make aggres- 
sive war on Mexico. He disapproved the marching 
of the army from Corpus Christi to the left Bank of 
the Del Norte, but said he had never said so to the 
public. I had a full conversation with him, and he 
left without satisfying me that I could rely upon his 
support of the measures recommended by the mes- 
sage, further than the mere defence of our territory. 
I inferred, too, from his conversation that he did not 
think the territory of the U. S. extended West of the 
Nueces River. 

At 12 O'Clock I sent my message 1 to Congress. 

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 437, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 391 

It was a day of great anxiety with me. Between 5 
& 6 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Slidell, U. S. Minister to 
Mexico, called and informed me that the Ho. Repts. 
had passed a Bill carrying out all the recommenda- 
tions of the message by a vote of 173 ayes to 14 noes, 
and that the Senate had adjourned after a debate 
without coming to any decision. 

My Private Secretary brought me a note from Col. 
Benton desiring information as to the number of men 
and amount of money required to defend the country. 
There was nothing in his note to commit him to any 
course of policy beyond what he had intimated in 
his conversation this morning. My Private Secre- 
tary informed me that Col. Benton would call for an 
answer at 8 O'Clock this evening. I immediately 
sent his note to the Secretary of War and requested 
him to call at that hour. The Secretaries of War 
and State called a few minutes before 8 O'Clock but 
before I had consulted him [the former] in relation 
to Col. Benton's note, Col. Benton came in. I told 
Col. B. that the Secretary of War had just come in & 
that I had no opportunity to consult him on the sub- 
ject of his note. I told him that my own opinion was 
that it was at present impossible to say what num- 
ber of troops would be wanted, and that until Con- 
gress acted I could not tell what authority would be 
given to the Executive ; but that if the Bill which had 
passed the House to-day should also pass the Senate, 
no more men would be called out and no more money 
expended than would be absolutely necessary to bring 
the present state of hostilities to an end. I told him 
if the war [was] recognized by Congress, that with 



392 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n May 

a large force on land and sea I thought it could be 
speedily terminated. Col. B. said that the Ho. 
Repts. had passed a Bill to-day declaring war in two 
hours, and that one and [a] half hours of that time 
had been occupied in reading the documents which 
accompanied my message, and that in his opinion in 
the 19th Century war should not be declared with- 
out full discussion and much more consideration than 
had been given to it in the Ho. Repts. Mr. Bu- 
chanan then remarked that War already existed by 
the act of Mexico herself & therefore it did not re- 
quire much deliberation to satisfy all that we ought 
promptly and vigorously to meet [it]. Mr. Marcy 
and Mr. Buchanan discussed the subject for some 
time with Mr. Benton, but without any change of 
the opinions which he had expressed to me in conver- 
sation this morning. I saw it was useless to debate 
the subject further with him & therefore I abstained 
from engaging further in the conversation. After 
remaining near an hour Col. Benton left. Mr. Bu- 
chanan, Mr. Marcy, and myself were perfectly satis- 
fied that he would oppose the Bill which had passed 
the House to-day, and that if the Whigs on party 
grounds acted with him the Bill might be de- 
feated. 

Gov. Yell of Arkansas, Senator Houston, & other 
members of Congress called in in the course of the 
evening, and were highly gratified at the action of 
the House in passing the Bill by so overwhelming a 
majority. The part taken by Mr. Calhoun in the 
Senate to-day satisfies me that he too will oppose the 
Bill passed by the House to-day if he thinks he can 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



393 



do so safely in reference to public opinion. The 
Whigs in the Senate will oppose it on party grounds 
probably, if they can get Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Benton, 
and two or three other Senators professing to belong 
to the Democratic party to join them, so as to make 
a majority against the Bill. Should the Bill be de- 
feated by such a combination, the professed Demo- 
cratic members who by their votes aid in rejecting 
it will owe a heavy responsibility not only to their 
party but to the country. I am fully satisfied that 
all that can save the Bill in the Senate is the fear 
of the people by the few Democratic Senators who 
wish it defeated. 

TUESDAY, 1 2th May, 1846. — The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the P. M. Gen'l, who was understood to be en- 
gaged in his office in examining the bids for mail 
contracts at the late letting in the Western & S. West- 
ern States. 

The Mexican question was the subject of conversa- 
tion, and all had doubts whether the Bill which 
passed the House on yesterday would pass the Sen- 
ate to-day. Should it pass, the course of operations 
was considered. Mr. Bancroft at my request 
brought from his office all the orders and letters of 
instruction to our squadrons in the Pacific & Gulf of 
Mexico, and they were read. This was done 1st, be- 
cause I desired to refresh my memory of what they 
were, & 2nd, because they may be called for by Con- 
gress. 

Some other business of minor importance was con- 



394 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 May 

sidered; & the Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock 
P.M. 

At 7 O'Clock P. M. my Private Secretary returned 
from the Capitol and announced to me that the Bill * 
which passed the Ho. Repts. on yesterday, making 
a formal declaration of War against Mexico, had 
passed the Senate by a vote of 42 ayes to 2 noes, with 
some immaterial amendment in its details. He rep- 
resented to me that the debate in the Senate to-day 
was most animating and thrilling, and that Mr. Cal- 
houn, who spoke in opposition to the Bill, but finally 
did not vote, had suffered much in the discussion. 
Mr. Crittenden and other Whigs, he informed me, 
had made speeches against portions of the Bill & 
made indirect opposition to it, [but had] finally 
voted for it. He represented the whole debate as 
a great triumph for the administration. The Senate, 
he informed me, adjourned as soon as the Bill was 
passed. The Ho. of Repts., he informed me, had ad- 
journed to meet this evening at 7^ O'Clock with a 
view to receive the Bill from the Senate, if that body 
should act upon it to-day. At 8>4 o'clock P. M. I 
learned that the House had concurred in the amend- 
ments of the Senate to the Bill, so that when the 
Bill is signed by the President War will be declared 
against Mexico. This was reception evening and 
more than 100 persons, ladies and gentlemen, at- 
tended. Among others Mr. Bates, 2 formerly a mem- 

1 For the passage of the War bill in the House, see Globe, 29 
Cong. 1 Sess. 795 ; for Its passage in the Senate, ibid, 804. 

2 James Bates, Representative from Maine, 1831-1833; at this 
time he was connected with the Maine Insane Hospital. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 395 

ber of Congress from Maine, with whom I served, 
with about twenty others who have charge of insane 
hospitals in different parts of the U. S. attended. 
Mr. Bates informed me that he was himself at the 
head of such an institution, and that a convention 
of those who also had charge of such institutions in 
different parts of the U. S. was now assembled in 
Washington to consult together on the subject of 
their respective charges. 

Wednesday, rjth May, 1846. — A very large 
number of visitors called on me this morning, con- 
sisting of Senators, Representatives, citizens, & stran- 
gers. All took a deep interest and many were 
excited at the declaration of war which passed Con- 
gress on yesterday, and now only awaited my approval 
to become a law. All approved the acts. Many 
members of Congress especially from the Western 
States desired that volunteers under the law should 
be accepted from their respective States. 

About 1 O'Clock P. M. a committee of Congress 
waited on me and presented the act 1 declaring War 
against Mexico for my approval. I read it in their 
presence & approved and signed it. 

Gen'l Scott, commana^r in chief of the U. S. 
Army, called in company with the Secretary of War. 
I had requested the Secretary to invite Gen'l Scott 
to call. I held a conference with them in relation 
to the execution of [the] act declaring War against 
Mexico. Gen'l Scott presented a project of the 
number and distribution among the States of the 

1 U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 9. 



396 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 May 

number of troops required. It was incomplete and 
after giving him my views [I] requested him to make 
a more formal report to me during the day. I ten- 
dered to Gen'l Scott the command of the army to be 
raised. He accepted and retired. Though I did not 
consider him in all respects suited to such an impor- 
tant command, yet being commander in chief of the 
army, his position entitled him to it if he desired it. 

Most of the Cabinet were in attendance, though 
no cabinet meeting had been called. A Proclama- 
tion 1 announcing the existence of the War was pre- 
pared and signed by me. This was done in pursu- 
ance of the precedent of Mr. Madison in 18 12. 

I appointed a special meeting of the Cabinet at 
7% O'Clock P. M. All the members attended ex- 
cept the Secretary of War. He was detained at his 
office issuing a requisition on the Gov. of Missouri 
for a thousand Mounted Volunteers, and issuing or- 
ders to Col. Kearney to proceed with his dragoons 
to protect a caravan of traders who, it was under- 
stood, had recently left Missouri for Santa Fe. Col. 
Howard of Texas was despatched with these orders, 
and to proceed without delay to overtake the traders 
to Santa Fe and notify them of the existence of War. 

Mr. Buchanan read the Iraft of a despatch which 
he had prepared to our Ministers at London, Paris, 
& other Foreign Courts, announcing the declaration 
of War against Mexico, with a statement of the 
causes and objects of the War, with a view that they 
should communicate its substance to the respective 

1 U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 999. Richardson, Messages and 
Papers of the Presidents, IV, 470. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 397 

Governments to which they are accredited. Among 
other things Mr. Buchanan had stated that our ob- 
ject was not to dismember Mexico or to make con- 
quests, and that the Del Norte was the boundary to 
which we claimed; or rather that in going to war we 
did not do so with a view to acquire either California 
or New Mexico or any other portion of the Mexican 
territory. I told Mr. Buchanan that I thought such 
a declaration to Foreign Governments unnecessary 
and improper; that the causes of the war as set forth 
in my message to Congress and the accompanying 
documents were altogether satisfactory. I told him 
that though we had not gone to war for conquest, yet 
it was clear that in making peace we would if prac- 
ticable obtain California and such other portion of 
the Mexican territory as would be sufficient to in- 
demnify our claimants on Mexico, and to defray the 
expenses of the war which that power by her long 
continued wrongs and injuries had forced us to wage. 
I told him it was well known that the Mexican Gov- 
ernment had no other means of indemnifying us. Mr. 
Buchanan said if when Mr. McLane announced to 
Lord Aberdeen the existence of the War with Mexico 
the latter should demand of Mr. McLane to know 
if we intended to acquire California or any other part 
of the Mexican territory and no satisfactory answer 
was given, he thought it almost certain that both Eng- 
land and France would join with Mexico in the war 
against us. I told him that the war with Mexico 
was an affair with which neither England, France, or 
any other power had any concern; that such an in- 
quiry would be insulting to our Government, and if 



398 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 May 

made I would not answer it, even if the consequence 
should be a war with all of them. I told him I would 
not tie up my hands or make any pledge to any For- 
eign power as to the terms on which I would ulti- 
mately make peace with Mexico. I told him no 
Foreign [power] had any right to demand any such 
assurance, and that I would make none such let the 
consequences be what they might. Then, said Mr. 
Buchanan, you will have war with England as well 
as Mexico, and probably with France also, for 
neither of these powers will ever stand bye and [see] 
California annexed to the U. S. I told him that be- 
fore I would make the pledge which he proposed, I 
would meet the war which either England or France 
or all the Powers of Christendom might wage, and 
that I would stand and fight until the last man 
among us fell in the conflict. I told him that nei- 
ther as a citizen nor as President would I permit or 
tolerate any intermeddling of any European Power 
on this Continent. Mr. Buchanan said if my views 
were carried out, we would not settle the Oregon 
question & we would have war with England. I 
told him there was no connection between the Ore- 
gon & Mexican question [s], and that sooner than 
give the pledge he proposed that we would not if we 
could fairly and honourably acquire California or 
any other part of the Mexican Territory which we 
desired, I would let the war which he apprehended 
with England come & would take the whole responsi- 
bility. The Secretary of the Treasury engaged 
warmly & even in an excited manner against the 
proposition of Mr. Buchanan in his draft of his de- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 399 

spatch. The Secretary of the Navy, the Atto. Gen , l, 
& the P. M. Gen'l in succession expressed similar 
opinions. Mr. Buchanan stood alone in the Cabinet, 
but was very earnest in expressing his views and en- 
forcing them. Towards the close of the discussion, 
which lasted for more than two hours, I stepped to 
my table and wrote a paragraph to be substituted for 
all that part of Mr. B's proposed despatch which 
spoke of dismembering Mexico, of acquiring Cali- 
fornia, or of the Del Norte as the ultimate boundary 
beyond which we would not claim or desire to go. 
I strongly expressed to Mr. Buchanan that these par- 
agraphs in his despatch must be struck out. Mr. 
Buchanan made no reply, but before he left took up 
his own draft and the paragraph which I had writ- 
ten and took them away with [him]. I was much 
astonished at the views expressed by Mr. Buchanan 
on the subject. The discussion to-night was one of 
the most earnest & interesting which has ever oc- 
curred in my Cabinet. 

The Cabinet adjourned about 11 O'Clock P.M. 
and I retired to rest much exhausted after a day of 
incessant application, anxiety, and labour. 

THURSDAY, 14th May, 1846. — Many members of 
Congress and others called this morning. Great 
anxiety prevailed to know the number of volunteers 
I would call to the Mexican frontier, and the States 
from which they would be taken. All I could say 
was that probably about 20,000 would be called out, 
and that they would be taken from the Western and 
Southwestern States which were nearest the scene of 



4oo JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 May 

action, but that I had not yet distributed the propor- 
tions among these states. 

Mr. Buchanan sent over for my approval a revised 
copy of his despatch 1 to our Ministers abroad, which 
had been so fully discussed in Cabinet last night. 
He had struck out of it the parts I had directed to 
be struck out & had substituted the paragraph I had 
written (see Diary of yesterday). 

I was exceedingly engaged; members of the Cabi- 
net and members of Congress were calling at short 
intervals during the whole day. The exciting topic 
was the War with Mexico, and the raising of troops 
to prosecute the war. 

At 8 O'Clock P. M. the Secretary of War and 
Gen'l Scott of the U. S. Army called. 

I had a long conference with them concerning 
the plan of conducting the war with Mexico. I gave 
it as my opinion that the first movement should be 
to march a competent force into the Northern Prov- 
inces and seize and hold them until peace was made. 
In this they concurred. The whole field of opera- 
tions was examined with all the information before 
us, but it would be tedious to detail all the views and 
the reasons for them which were expressed. 

It was agreed to call out immediately for service 
20,000 volunteers, and we proceeded to apportion 
this force among the States of Texas, Arkansas, Illi- 
nois, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennes- 
see, Alabama, Mississippi, & Georgia. After very 
full examination of the subject the Secretary of War 
& Gen'l Scott retired between 1 1 & 12 O'Clock P. M. 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI, 484. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



401 



Gen'l Scott did not impress me favourably as a mili- 
tary man. He has had experience in his profession, 
but I thought was rather scientific and visionary in 
his views. I did not think that so many as 20,000 
volunteers besides the regular army was necessary, 
but I did not express this opinion, not being willing 
to take the responsibility of any failure of the cam- 
paign by refusing to grant to Gen'l Scott all he asked. 

Friday, 15th May, 1846. — Saw a large number 
of persons this morning, members of Congress and 
others. I was this morning to tell members of Con- 
gress how many volunteers were called out, & the 
number from each State upon which a requisition 
was made. 

After 12 O'Clock had repeated interviews with 
different members of the Cabinet who called, and es- 
pecially with the Secretaries of War, Navy, & State. 

Mr. Holmes of S. C, Chairman of the committee 
of Naval affairs of the Ho. Repts., called about 2 
O'Clock to hold a conversation with me about the 
measures connected with the Navy to be brought for- 
ward by his committee. He told me they had de- 
termined to Report a Bill authorizing 13 War 
Steamers to be built. He expressed a desire on the 
part of the Committee to harmonize with the views 
of the administration. He mentioned a Report 
made to them or to the Ho. Repts. by the Secretary 
of the Navy, proposing certain reforms in the Navy 
in which he did not concur, and said he had written 
to the Secretary of the Navy on yesterday on the sub- 
ject but had received no answer. He expressed the 



402 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 May 

opinion that since the declaration of War against 
Mexico, the State of the country was very different 
from what it was at the time the Secretary had made 
his Report. I was not enabled to give him any defi- 
nite information in regard to the Secretary's views 
since the declaration of the War against Mexico, but 
told him I would immediately send for the Secretary 
of the Navy & consult him on the subject. Mr. 
Holmes retired & I sent for the Secretary of the 
Navy and informed him of Mr. Holmes' conversa- 
tion. He said he had received no letter from him & 
that he would without delay address him a note to 
that effect. I note Mr. Holmes' call, because he had 
heretofore given indications of no kind feelings to- 
wards the administration, and his call upon me there- 
fore was unexpected. 

Colonel R. M. Johnson of Kentucky and [I] had 
a friendly conversation of an hour. He approves 
the whole course of my administration, and expressed 
himself warmly to that effect. He told me there 
[were] some of Mr. Calhoun's friends who had come 
to him & condemned my course on the Mexican 
question, and had attributed to me [as] the motive 
in bringing on the war with Mexico the desire to 
run a second time for the Presidency. Col. J. said 
he repelled the imputation as unworthy of them and 
vindicated my course on the Mexican question, & 
had told them plainly that he would prefer me to 
any man spoken of for the Presidency, and if I with- 
held my assent to be a candidate the people had a 
right to elect me whether I agreed to it or not. I 
told [him] I was no candidate for a second term and 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 403 

would not be; and repeated to him my fixed & un- 
alterable resolution on this subject, from the day I 
wrote my letter of acceptance of the Baltimore nomi- 
nation. I told him I had not changed the resolution 
expressed in that letter and should not do so. 

This was one of the evenings for receiving com- 
pany in the parlour. It was raining and not more 
than 40 or 50 persons attended. 

Saturday, 16th May, 1846. — At 5 O'clock this 
morning my brother-in-law, James Walker, and my 
sister, his wife, who had been inmates of my house 
for near a month past, left for their residence in 
Tennessee. They took with them their daughter 
Sarah who has spent the last six months in my 
family. 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting to-day; all the 
members present. The P. M. Gen'l being much en- 
gaged in the business of his office remained but a 
short time. The chief subject considered was the 
Mexican War. A " confidential Circular " 1 to all 
our consuls abroad stating the causes of the War with 
Mexico and the views of the Government, which had 
been printed, was presented by the Secretary of State, 
and met the approbation of the Cabinet. I had be- 
fore approved it. 

The plan of the campaign against Mexico was con- 
sidered & particularly against the Northern Prov- 
inces. I presented my views to the Cabinet and they 
were approved. My plan was to march an army of 
2000 men on Santa Fe & near 4000 men on Chihua- 

1 Moore, Buchanan, VI, 485. 



4o 4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 May 

hua and at once conquer the Northern Provinces, 
leaving Gen'l Scott to occupy the country on the 
lower Del Norte and in the interior. After the 
Cabinet adjourned I sent for Col. Benton and sub- 
mitted the plan to him and he approved it. 

During the sitting of the Cabinet I submitted to 
them the distribution among the States of the 50,000 
volunteers authorized to be raised. A portion of 
this force was assigned to each State and territory 
in the Union, so as to make each feel an interest in 
the war. The 20,000 to be called into service im- 
mediately were to be taken from the Western and 
South Western States, and the remaining 30,000 to 
be organized in the other States and territories and 
held in readiness subject to the call of the Govern- 
ment. I had constant calls during the latter part of 
the day by many members of Congress on the subject 
of the War & the organization of the volunteer force. 
After night fifteen or twenty members of Congress, 
chiefly from the Western States called. The Vice 
President & the Speaker of the Ho. Repts. also 
called. All desired to see me on the subject of the 
Mexican War. The law l passed Congress to-day to 
raise a Regiment of riflemen to guard our emigrants 
to Oregon, in pursuance of the recommendation in 
my annual message. The officers to command this 
Regiment are of course to be appointed soon. Most 
of the members who called recommended persons to 
fill these offices. Near 12 O'Clock P. M. I retired 
much fatigued & exhausted. 

Approved May 19, 1846. U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 13. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 405 

SUNDAY, 17th May, 1846.— Attended the first 
Presbyterian Church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and my niece, Miss Rucker. 

MONDAY, 1 8th May, 1846,— An unusually large 
number of visitors called to-day. A great number 
of strangers are in the City to attend the fair to be 
held by the manufacturers on the 20th Instant. 
Many others have doubtless been drawn to the City 
by the recent declaration of War against Mexico; 
some of them to tender the services of themselves & 
others as volunteers, and a very large number to seek 
appointments in the Regiment of mounted rifle-men, 
which passed Congress two or three days ago. From 
these combined causes I saw a larger number of per- 
sons in my office to-day than have called on me in 
my office on any one day since I have been President. 
At 12 O'Clock I usually close my office, but when 
that hour arrived to-day so many persons were in de- 
siring to see me that though my porter closed the 
door below stairs & prevented other from entering 
my time was occupied in conversation until near my 
dinner hour. 

In the course of the day Robert H. Morris, Post 
Master at New York, called. Mr. Morris had been 
nominated and by and with the advice and consent 
of the Senate been appointed Post Master of New 
York some weeks ago. The Post Master Gen'l re- 
ported to me some days ago that Mr. Morris had 
been required to give bond as all other Post Masters 
were required to do, and had failed to do so. The 
Post Master Gen'l informed me that he had written 



4 o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [18 May 

& caused to be written to Mr. Morris several letters 
required [ing] the bond to be forwarded, and that 
he had answered evasively, and insisted that his com- 
pensation to pay his clerks & other expenses of his 
office must be increased before he would give bond. 
I directed the Post Master Gen'l to write to him 
without delay and inform him that if he did not exe- 
cute & forward his bond immediately I would re- 
move him & appoint another Post Master. Upon 
receiving that letter Mr. Morris had come to Wash- 
ington & called to see me on the subject. I repeated 
to him what I had authorized the P. M. Gen'l to 
write to him. I told him it was my duty to see that 
the laws were faithfully executed; that bonds were 
required of all Post Masters, and that unless he gave 
his bond forthwith I would remove him. He spoke 
of the inadequacy of his compensation. I told him 
he received all that the law allowed, and that if his 
compensation was inadequate he must appeal to 
Congress to increase it. I told him it was useless to 
talk further on the subject, that he had to give the 
bonds forthwith or be dismissed. He then begged 
me to allow him to return to N. York when he would 
execute the bond on to-morrow & have it here on 
thursday next. I told him he could have the time he 
requested, but if the bond was not here at that time 
I would certainly remove him. Mr. Morris is a 
leading democrat, but in the discharge of my official 
duties I can & will know no man or his politics, but 
require all public officers to conform to the law. 

After night a crowd of members of Congress at- 
tended] at my office. They wished to converse 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



407 



about the Mexican war, and to solicit appointments 
for their friends in the Regiment of mounted rifle- 
men recently authorized by Congress to be raised. I 
retired at a late hour after one of the most harassing 
and fatiguing day's labour I have ever performed in 
my life. 

Tuesday, igth May, 1846.— This was the regu- 
lar day of the meeting of the Cabinet. The members 
were irregular in the hour of meeting. The Secre- 
tary of War was attending the Military Committee 
of the Senate, consulting with them in relation to 
further legislation with a view to the more vigorous 
prosecution of the Mexican war, & did not come in 
until near two hours after the usual time of meeting. 
The Post Master Gen'l & Secretary of State [came], 
but said if there was nothing of importance to be 
brought before the Cabinet they were much engaged 
in their respective Departments & would retire. 
They did so, the Secretary of State returning in about 
an hour. No subject was brought up for considera- 
tion & decision. I had however a long and full con- 
versation with the Secretaries of War and of the 
Navy in relation to the prosecution of the war with 
Mexico, and urged upon both the necessity of giv- 
ing their personal attention to all matters, even of 
detail, and not confiding in their subordinates to act 
without their supervision. I required of them, too, 
to keep me constantly advised of every important 
step that was taken. I urged the most energetic and 
prompt action. I told them that I had understood 
that Gen'l Scott had given out that he would not 



4 o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 May 

probably go to the seat of War on the Del Norte to 
take command until about the 1st of September. I 
remarked to the Secretary of War that any such de- 
lay was not to be permitted, & that Gen'l Scott must 
proceed very soon to his post, or that I would super- 
sede him in the command. The Secretary of War 
informed me that Gen'l Scott was embarrassing him 
by his schemes, that he was constantly talking and 
not acting. I told the Secretary to take the matter 
into his own hands; to issue his orders and cause 
them to be obeyed. 

Mr. Buchanan called whilst some of the members 
of the Cabinet were still in my office and introduced 
Bishop Hughes * of the Catholic church in New 
York. I requested Bishop Hughes to call with Mr. 
Buchanan at 7 P. M. Bishop Hughes had come to 
Washington upon an invitation given by Mr. Bu- 
chanan upon consultation with me some days ago. 
Our object was to procure his aid in disabusing the 
minds of the Catholic Priests & people of Mexico 
in regard to what they most erroneously supposed to 
be the hostile designs of the Government and people 
of the U. S. upon the religion and church property 
of Mexico. 

Bishop Hughes called with Mr. Buchanan at 7 
O'Clock. Mr. B. having already conversed with 
him on the subject, retired, and I held a conversation 

1 John Hughes, Catholic Bishop of New York 1840-1850, 
Archbishop 1 850-1 864. At the request of President Lincoln and 
Secretary Seward he visited Europe in 1861 in behalf of the 
Northern cause. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 409 

of an hour with him. I fully explained to him the 
objections] which we would probably have to en- 
counter from the prejudices of the Catholic Priests 
in Mexico, and the false impressions they had of the 
hostile designs of this country on their religion; that 
the false idea had been industriously] circulated by 
interested partizans in Mexico that our object was 
to overthrow their religion & rob their churches, and 
that if they believed this they would make a des- 
perate resistance to our army in the present war. 
Bishop Hughes fully agreed with me in the opin- 
ion I expressed that it was important to remove such 
impressions. I said to him that the great object of 
my desiring to have this interview with him, was to 
ask whether some of the Priests of the U. S. who 
spoke the Spanish language could be induced to ac- 
company our army as chaplains and others to visit 
Mexico in advance of the army, for the purpose of 
giving assurance to the Catholic clergy in Mexico 
that under our constitution their religion and church 
property would be secure, and that so far from being 
violated, both would be protected by our army, and 
in this way avoid their active hostility in the pending 
war. Bishop Hughes at once said he thought such a 
visit to Mexico and having a few catholic priests 
with the army would have a good effect, & expressed 
his entire willingness to cooperate with our Govern- 
ment in giving such aid as was in his power. He 
said he knew personally the Arch-bishop of Mex- 
ico, & expressed his willingness to visit Mexico him- 
self if the Government desired it. I found Bishop 



4io JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 May 

Hughes a highly intelligent and agreeable man, and 
my interview with him was of the most satisfactory 
character. 

This being reception evening it was announced to 
me that company was assembling in the parlour be- 
low. Bishop Hughes accompanied me to the par- 
lour. The company soon became so numerous that the 
Circular parlour in which they were received be- 
came so crowded that one of the adjoining parlours 
was thrown open & lighted up. Both were soon 
crowded. The City is unusually crowded with stran- 
gers many of whom were present. 

I was surprised to see Senator Wescott of Florida 
present in the drawing room this evening. Mr. Bu- 
chanan, it is true, had informed me that Mr. Wes- 
cott desired to see me on public business, and asked 
if I would see him. I told him certainly I would 
see any member of Congress or citizen on public 
business; but I had not expected to see him in the 
drawing room. Mr. Wescott has acted in most im- 
proper manner towards me, as is stated in the pre- 
vious part of this diary, and I had not seen him for 
several months. He came up and spoke to me in 
the crowd, and I treated him as the President should 
treat any citizen in his own mansion. 

Wednesday, 20th May, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual to-day. A very large number of persons at- 
tended. The press for offices in the new Regiment 
of mounted riflemen is very great, and this brought 
upon me a great number of applicants and their 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 411 

friends. Others called to tender themselves & or- 
ganized companies as Volunteers for the Mexican 
war. 

Col. Benton called with the Catholic Bishop of 
Missouri. I had before held a conversation with 
Col. B. and he had concurred with me in the impor- 
tance of having with our army in Mexico a few 
Catholic Priests, who would be able to allay the fears 
of the Mexican Catholics in regard to their religion 
and church property. I had a short interview with 
Col. B. and the Bishop. Col. B. said they had just 
seen the Secretary of War, and that a number of 
Priests would be designated by the Bishop to accom- 
pany the army. If the Catholic Priests in Mexico 
can be satisfied that their churches and religion would 
be secure the conquest of the Northern Provinces of 
Mexico will be easy and the probability is that the 
war would be of short duration; but if a contrary 
opinion prevails the resistance to our forces will be 
desperate. The interview with Bishop Hughes on 
yesterday and this interview with the Bishop of Mis- 
souri to-day was for the purpose of having their aid 
in conveying true information in relation to the free 
toleration of all sects of religion under our constitu- 
tion to the Mexican Priesthood & people, & giving 
them assurance that our invasion of Mexico was 
not for the purpose of interfering in any way with 
their religion. 

I had a busy day. At 6 O'Clock the Marine Band 
performed in the grounds South of the President's 
House. A very large number of persons attended. 



4 i2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 May 

Thursday, 21st May, 1846. — A very large 
crowd of Strangers called on me to-day. The pres- 
sure for appointments in the new Regiment of Rifle- 
men is beyond anything of the kind which I have 
witnessed since I have been President. There are 
many hundred applicants, and but 3 Field officers, 
10 Captains, 11 First Lieutenants, and 10 Second 
Lieutenants to be appointed. Upwards of 100 offi- 
cers of the army have applied for promotion. Ex- 
cept in the case of Capt. Fremont, 1 I have upon full 
consideration determined to select the officers from 
civil life, for the reason that if any of the officers of 
the present army are promoted, it will produce heart- 
burning with all other officers of the same grade who 
have performed equal service and have equal merit 
with themselves. Capt. Fremont's is an excepted 
case. He has made several explorations to Oregon 
and California, and his Reports show that he is an 
officer of high merit and peculiarly fitted for this 
Regiment, which is intended to guard and protect 
our emigrants to Oregon. Moreover it is pecul- 
iarly a Western Regiment, and I will give a larger 
proportion of officers to that portion of the Union 
than to any other. Besides the reason assigned for 
not selecting the officers from the army, it is gen- 
erally expected that they should be selected from 
citizens. 

The Secretary of War called at my office at 12 
O'Clock by previous appointment to confer about the 
officers to be appointed for the new Rifle Regiment, 

1 John C. Fremont, famous for his explorations, nominee of the 
Republican party for the Presidency in 1856. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 413 

and spent about 2 hours in examining their papers 
and recommendations. The Secretary of the Treas- 
ury & the Atto. Gen'l were present during the most 
of the time. We agreed that a portion of the officers 
should be Whigs. As I had determined to appoint 
Persifor F. Smith 1 (Democrat) Colonel, and Capt. 
Fremont (politics unknown) Lieut. Col. we deter- 
mined to select a Whig for Major. I directed my 
Private Secretary to call on Senators Crittenden, Ky., 
Reverdy Johnson, Md., and Archer, Va., to present 
to me a suitable person of the Whig party for 
Major. 

Mr. F. W. Risque of Lynchburg, Va., with whom 
I had no acquaintance, called to-day and sought an 
interview with me. His object was to procure the 
restoration of his brother-in-law, Captain Hutter, 
late of the army, who had been dismissed during Mr. 
Tyler's administration. I glanced casually at por- 
tions of the papers in the case, but had not time to 
read them. Mr. Risque made a statement of the 
case, and according to his account of it it was a hard 
one. He stated that he had some time ago called on 
Senator Archer of Va. to aid him in the case. He 
said that Mr. Archer had at first declined, but upon 
his urgent request had finally agreed to do so. He 
said Mr. Archer had held some correspondence with 
Gen'l Scott on the subject, and he handed me a let- 
ter from Gen'l Scott to Mr. Archer on the subject 
dated 6th Feb'y, 1846, which was highly unjust and 

1 Perfisor Frazer Smith, 1798-1858; promoted to rank of Major 
General in 1848 and given command of the Departments of Texas 
and California. 



4 i4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 May 

disrespectful to the administration and especially to 
the President. Gen'l Scott was opposed to Capt. 
Hutter's reinstatement in the army, and the letter was 
shown to me to prevent Gen'l Scott's official influ- 
ence from operating to the prejudice of Capt. Hutter. 
Gen'l Scott in that letter spoke of the new Regiment 
about to be raised, and said it was intended to make 
offices for Western Democrats, or rather, as he ex- 
pressed it, to give them pay, and said he would never 
dishonour himself by recommending anyone to this 
administration for office. This is the substance of 
the reasons he assigned in that letter for not recom- 
mending Capt. Hutter for reinstatement in the army, 
or for an appointment in the new Regiment. The 
letter was of a partisan character; wholly unbecom- 
ing the commander-in-chief of the army, and highly 
exceptionable in its tenor and language towards the 
President. 1 It proved to me that Gen'l Scott was 
not only hostile, but recklessly vindictive in his feel- 
ings towards my administration. Whilst I was ex- 
amining the papers in Capt. Hutter's case the Secre- 
tary of War came in on official business, and Mr. 
Risque, to whom I had returned Gen'l Scott's letter, 

1 The obnoxious portion of the letter was as follows: " With the 
officering of a new corps I am sure I should not be allowed the 
least possible agency except in favour of a democrat, and the pro- 
posed Riflemen are intended by western men to give Commissions 
or rather pay to western democrats. Not an eastern man, not a 
graduate of the Military Academy and certainly not a whig would 
obtain a place under such proscriptive circumstances or prospects. 
You may be certain I shall not dishonor myself by recommending 
any individual whatever, and so I have already replied to hun- 
dreds of applicants, most of them democrats." 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 415 

handed it to the Secretary, who read it. Mr. Ris- 
que said the letter was not marked private & he 
felt himself at liberty to use it. After Mr. Risque 
left, taking the letter with him, the Secretary of War 
and myself conversed about the very offensive and 
highly exceptionable character of the letter. After 
seeing this letter I can have no confidence in Gen'l 
Scott's disposition to carry out the views of the ad- 
ministration as commander-in-chief of the army on 
the Del Norte, and yet unless Congress shall au- 
thorize the appointment of additional general officers 
I may be compelled to continue to entrust the com- 
mand to him. If I shall be compelled to do so, it 
will be with the full conviction of his hostility to my 
administration, and that he will reluctantly do any- 
thing to carry out my plans and views in the cam- 
paign. 

After night the Secretary of War sent to me a let- 
ter of this date addressed to himself by Gen'l Scott 
in relation to the Mexican campaign, of an excep- 
tionable character, and going conclusively to prove 
his bad feelings and hostility to the administration. 
I will request the Secretary of War to preserve this 
letter. Taken in connection with the letter shown to 
me by Mr. Risque to-day, I am satisfied that the ad- 
ministration will not be safe in intrusting the com- 
mand of the army in the Mexican war to Gen'l 
Scott. His bitter hostility towards the administra- 
tion is such that I could not trust him and will not 
do so if Congress will pass the Bill now before them, 
authorizing the appointment of additional Maj'r 
Generals of the Army. Gen'l Scott's partisan feel- 



416 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 May 

ings must not interfere with the public service if 
another suitable commanding officer can be had. 

I was waited on to-day by Mr. Mayor Seaton 1 
& two gentlemen from a distance (manufacturers I 
presume) whose names I do not remember and in- 
vited to attend the fair 2 now holding in this City at 
such time as might suit my convenience. 

FRIDAY, 22nd May, 1846. — A very large crowd 
attended to-day. The number of strangers in the City 
is very large, and many of both sexes called to pay 
their respects this morning. I continued to be pressed 
to-day for offices in the new Rifle Regiment. I 
sent my Private Secretary to the Capitol to ascertain 
from Messrs. Crittenden, Johnson, & Archer if they 
had selected a Whig gentleman for the command of 
Maj'r in that Regiment. I requested him also to 
procure the names of three or four Whigs for Lieu- 
tenancies. 

The Secretary of War called and informed [me] 
that Mr. Senator Archer had been at his office this 
morning, and had entered into a conversation with 
him concerning Gen'l Scott & a difference which he 
had heard existed between the Secretary & Gen'l 
Scott. The Secretary told me that he informed him 
that he knew of no such difference, but informed 
[him] of the strange conduct of Gen'l Scott, and 

1 William W. Seaton, 1 785-1 866, member of the firm of Gales 
and Seaton, editors of the National Intelligencer, the Whig organ 
at Washington. 

2 The National Manufacturers Fair, held at Washington, May 
2i-June 3, 1846. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 417 

among other things of the exceptionable letter which 
had been shown to him by Mr. Risque on yesterday, 
addressed by Gen'l Scott to him, Mr. Archer, on the 
6th of February, as noted in yesterday's diary. Mr. 
Archer expressed surprise that that letter was out of 
his possession, and said it had gone out of his hands 
by mistake or accident. The Secretary informed me 
that he told Mr. Archer that the person who had 
shown it to him on yesterday was a stranger to him 
and he did not remember his name, but that he re- 
ferred Mr. Archer to Judge Mason who had seen 
the letter, & he understood it had been shown to sev- 
eral persons in the City. The Secretary said he in- 
formed Mr. Archer that I had seen the letter. 
While the Secretary was giving me an account of 
this conversation with Mr. Archer, Judge Mason 
called & informed me that Mr. Archer had just left 
his office, where he had called to learn about the 
letter of Gen'l Scott to himself, which had been men- 
tioned to him by the Secretary of War to-day. Judge 
Mason said he told him that he had read it, and that 
Mr. Risque was the person in whose possession it 
was. Mr. Archer left his office in pursuit of Mr. 
Risque, resolved to recover the possession of the let- 
ter at any hazard. The Secretary of War and my- 
self both expressed a desire to procure a copy of the 
letter, but after some conversation we came to the 
conclusion that as the letter might be regarded by 
Mr. Archer as a private letter, although not so 
marked, it would not be proper to apply to Mr. Ris- 
que for a copy. 

I learned yesterday and to-day that Gen'l Scott, 



4 i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 May 

Gen'l Wool, & Adjutant Gen'l Jones were using their 
influence with members of Congress to prevent the 
passage of the Bill now before the Senate authoriz- 
ing the appointment of two additional Major Gen'ls 
& four Brigadier Generals. Such conduct is highly 
censurable. These officers are all whigs & violent 
partisans, and not having the success of my adminis- 
tration at heart seem disposed to throw every ob- 
stacle in the way of my prosecuting the Mexican 
War successfully. An end must be speedily put to 
this state of things. 

This was reception evening. Many hundred per- 
sons attended. They were chiefly strangers who had 
been attracted to Washington by the Manufacturer's 
fair, and the excitement produced in the public mind 
by the War with Mexico. Many patriotic persons 
are at present in the City seeking commands in the 
army, and tendering their services to the Govern- 
ment as volunteers in the army. 

SATURDAY, 2 Jr d May ,1846. — This was Cabinet day 
and I devoted myself to the business which had ac- 
cumulated on my table until 11 O'Clock when the 
Cabinet met; all the members present. Mr. Bu- 
chanan read a despatch from Mr. McLane, received 
this morning, of the 3rd Inst., the purport of which 
was that no proposition would be made by the Brit- 
tish Government with a view to the settlement of the 
Oregon question until the action of the Senate on the 
question of Notice was known. Mr. McLane re- 
peated the opinion before expressed by him that the 
delay of the Senate to act on the question of notice 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



419 



had operated most unfortunately in England. Mr. 
King, our Minister at Paris, in a private letter from 
him which Mr. Buchanan read, expressed the strong 
opinion that the delay of the Senate to give the notice 
had operated most prejudicially to the U. S. through- 
out Europe, and expressed his deep regret at the de- 
lay. Mr. King expressed the desire in his private 
letter to Mr. Buchanan (& requested him to com- 
municate it to me) to be recalled in September next. 

Mr. Buchanan read the draft of a message to the 
Senate which he had prepared in relation to our 
Treaty of indemnity with Peru, the exchange of rati- 
fications of which had not taken place within the time 
limited by the Treaty. 

I read to the Cabinet a letter * addressed by Gen'l 
Winfleld Scott to the Secretary of War dated 21st 
Instant, which had been communicated to me by the 
Secretary on the day it bears date. (See this diary 
of the 2 1 st & 22nd Instant.) This letter of Gen'l 
Scott is foolish, & vindictive toward the administra- 
tion. Without the slightest reason for it Gen'l Scott 
makes base and false insinuations in reference to the 
administration, as connected with the command of 
the army on the Mexican frontier, which I had on 
the commencement of hostilities requested him to as- 
sume. He uses language not only exceptionable but 
unbecoming an officer. After making false insinua- 
tions against the administration, he concludes by us- 
ing the following language, viz.; " My explicit 
meaning is, that I do not desire to place myself in 
the most perilous of all positions, a fire upon my 

1 Niles Register, LXX, 231. 



420 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 May 

rear from Washington and the fire in front from the 
Mexicans." I repeat this insinuation is wholly false, 
and proves, as I think, two things; 1st, that Gen'l 
Scott seeks a pretext to avoid going to the Del Norte 
to take command of our army, and 2nd, that his 
partisan feelings are such that he is unfit to be in- 
trusted with the command. The only reason as- 
signed for making such an insinuation is that in an 
interview with the Secretary of War a few days ago 
he had expressed the opinion which he repeats in this 
letter, that operations on the Del Norte under the 
late act of Congress authorizing a call for volunteers 
could not commence before the 1st of September, to 
which the Secretary had informed him that I wished 
prompt action, and that the delay proposed was un- 
necessary. This is what Gen'l Scott calls " a fire 
upon my rear from Washington." The facts are 
that war has been declared against Mexico, twenty 
thousand volunteers have been called out to take the 
field as soon as possible, I had designated Gen'l 
Scott solely because he was commander-in-chief of 
the Army, to take the command; I desired a prompt 
and energetic movement; whereas Gen'l Scott was 
in favour of remaining in Washington and not as- 
suming the command before the 1st of September. 
This as far as I know is the sole cause of his extraor- 
dinary & vindictive letter. I submitted to the Cab- 
inet the impropriety, with this letter before us, of 
continuing him [in] the command. The subject was 
discussed, the Secretary of the Treasury expressing 
a decided opinion that he ought not to be intrusted 
with the command. I expressed the opinion that the 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 421 

administration could not have any confidence in him 
& that I could not feel safe if he took the command 
of the army, & said that if I could find any other 
officer who was qualified, my opinion was that Gen'l 
Scott should be superseded & such officer assigned 
to the command. While the subject was under dis- 
cussion, a committee of manufacturers accompanied 
by Mr. Seaton, Mayor of Washington, called to ac- 
company me to the Manufacturers fair now holding 
in this City. The Cabinet suspended the considera- 
tion of the subject and adjourned. I visited the fair 
accompanied by the Mayor & committee & the ladies 
of my family. There were a great variety of manu- 
factured articles collected in a very large temporary 
building erected for the occasion by the manufac- 
turers. I was informed that the building alone cost 
over $6000, and that as soon as the fair was over 
would be taken down. The specimens of manufac- 
ture exhibited are highly creditable to the genius 
and skill of our countrymen. All must desire that 
the manufacturing interests should prosper, but none 
ought to desire that to enable them to do so heavy 
burthens should be imposed by the Government on 
other branches of industry. The manufacturers 
have spent many thousands of dollars in getting up 
this fair, with a view no doubt to operate upon 
members of Congress to prevent a reduction of the 
present rates of duty imposed by the oppressive pro- 
tective tariff act of 1842. To effect this, lower 
prices was [were] affixed to & labelled on the speci- 
mens exhibited than they are sold for in the market. 
This I know was the case in reference to some of the 



422 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 May 

articles. The object of this is no doubt to impress 
the public with the belief that [in] the absurd doc- 
trine that " high duties make low goods." The 
wealth exhibited at this fair & the expense attend- 
ing it prove, I think, that the large capitalists 
owning the manufacturies should rely upon their 
own resources not upon the bounty of the Govern- 
ment, (and especially when that bounty cannot be 
afforded them but at the expense of other interests) 
for their support. With revenue instead of protec- 
tive duties, they have the advantage over all other 
interests, and with this they should be satisfied. 

The Southern mail of this evening brought intel- 
ligence of two decided victories 1 obtained by Gen'l 
Taylor's army over the Mexicans on the Del Norte. 
No official account of these battles was received. 

My office was crowded during the evening and 
until a late hour to-night by members of Congress 
and others, who called to learn the news from the 
army on the Del Norte & to converse on the subject. 
Among them was Senator Wescott of Florida. He 
had treated me badly, as is set forth in a previous 
part of this diary, and I had not seen him since the 
rejection of Mr. Woodward as Judge of the Supreme 
Court of the U. S. about four months ago, except 
on the last reception evening (22nd Instant) I ob- 
served him in the parlour and spoke to him in a 
formal manner. This evening he made known his 
business. It was in reference to the defenseless con- 
dition of the State of Florida. He wished volun- 

1 The victories of Palo Alto and Reseca de la Palma, May 8 
and 9, 1846. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



423 



teers called out to take the place of the regular 
troops who had been ordered from the forts in that 
State to the seat of War on the Del Norte. I treated 
him courteously in my own office, as I do all persons 
who call, & told him I would consider his request. 

SUNDAY, 24th May, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. As we were go- 
ing out of the door to attend church we were ac- 
costed by a young man, much emaciated and very 
feeble, who said his name was Bledsoe, & that he 
was the same person who had been a law student 
with James H. Thomas, Esq. (my law partner) of 
Columbia, Tennessee, in 1844. I remembered that 
there was such a person in our law office at that 
time, but he was so changed in his appearance I 
did not recognize him. He said he had been ad- 
vised to go to sea for the benefit of his health, that 
he had done so, and during his absence had been 
three months in the hospital at Gibraltar, that he 
had made his way thus far back towards his home 
in Mississippi, and that he had no money to pay 
his way at a tavern. His appearance and his story 
excited my sympathy. I handed him $5.00 and di- 
rected the steward to give him refreshments & then 
conduct him to a Hotel & see that he had comforta- 
ble quarters. I told him I would give him further 
assistance on to-morrow. 

MONDAY, 25th May, 1846. — Saw many persons 
this morning, male & female, who called to pay 



424 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 May 

their respects. Many called seeking office, and as 
it was expected that I would very soon nominate 
the officers of the Regiment of Mounted rifle-men 
recently authorized to be raised by Congress, nu- 
merous applications were made this morning. I 
answered all the applicants that I had made out the 
list of these appointments and would send them to 
the Senate to-day. I did so at 12 O'Clock. 

The Secretary of War, who had shown me the 
draft of his answer to Gen'l Scott's extraordinary 
letter of the 21st Instant, called a few minutes after 
12 O'Clock, and it was carefully examined and re- 
vised. It had previously undergone the revision of 
the Atto. General. Deeming it to [be] a matter of 
sufficient importance, I called a special meeting of 
the Cabinet at 2 O'Clock P. M. to-day, to consider 
of the answer to Gen'l Scott's letter. The Cabinet 
convened at that hour. Mr. Buchanan suggested & 
prepared a modification of one of the paragraphs, 
which was approved, and as thus modified the letter 
of the Secretary of War was approved unanimously 
by the Cabinet. I directed the Secretary of War to 
have it copied and delivered to Gen'l Scott to-day. 
The conclusion of the letter was to excuse Gen'l 
Scott from the command of the army against Mexico, 
and to order him to remain in the discharge of his 
duties at Washington. 

My Private Secretary handed to me on his re- 
turn from the Capitol to-day copies of a letter from 
Hon. Wm. S. Archer, Senator from Va., of the 7th 
[6th] of Feb'y last to Mr. Risque of Lynchburg, 
Va., enclosing the very exceptionable letter of Gen'l 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 425 

Scott to Mr. Archer in relation to Capt. Hutter's 
restoration to the army referred to in this Diary of 
the 22nd Instant. The Copy of Mr. Archer's letter 
to Mr. Risque and the copy of the letter of Gen'l 
Scott to Mr. Archer were furnished to my Private 
Secretary by the Hon. Mr. Relfe * of Missouri, to 
whom they had been furnished by Mr. Risque. 
They are under cover of an envelope with Mr. 
Relfe's frank, which I will preserve, as they may 
be useful hereafter, as showing Gen'l Scott's vin- 
dictive and hostile feelings towards the administra- 
tion. 

Official despatches from Gen'l Taylor were re- 
ceived this evening, confirming the previous intel- 
ligence of the success of the American Arms in two 
engagements with the Mexican forces on the Del 
Norte on the 8th & 9th days of May, 1846. 

About 7 O'Clock the Secretary of War informed 
me that he had caused his answer to Gen'l Scott's 
letter of the 21st Instant, as it had been agreed on 
in cabinet to-day to be copied & delivered to Gen'l 
Scott at about 5^2 O'Clock this afternoon. The 
Secretary produced a second letter from Gen'l Scott 
of this date, which he said was delivered to him 
after the Cabinet adjourned to-day, and before his 
answer to Gen'l Scott's first letter had been copied 
and delivered to him. He said he perceived noth- 
ing in this second letter to make it necessary to 
change the answer as it had been prepared to the 
first letter. He read the second letter, which was 
not so violent in its terms or so offensive as the first, 

1 James H. Relfe, Representative from Missouri 1843-1847, 



426 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 May 

but there was nothing in it to change my approval 
of the answer which had been prepared to the first 
letter. 

The Secretary of the Senate called near dark with 
a Resolution of the Senate rejecting the nomination 
of Henry Horn as collector of the Port of Phila. 
Senator Houston called after night, from whom I 
learned that all the Whig Senators in a body had 
voted against Mr. Horn's confirmation, and that 
Senators Calhoun, Cameron, and Wescott had voted 
with them. I learned also that six or eight demo- 
cratic Senators were absent, some of them attending 
the funeral of Senator Speight's son who died in 
this City on yesterday. In the absence of his father 
and other Democratic Senators, Mr. Cameron had 
moved to take up the nomination & in a thin Senate 
had rejected him. Mr. Cameron has acted very 
badly in this matter. He had given me reason to 
believe that he would withdraw his opposition to 
him. I now learn that he had continued his efforts 
to have him rejected in a thin Senate. There never 
was a better officer than Mr. Horn; there was no 
objection to his private character, for that was irre- 
proachable. His rejection was produced by a small 
faction of professed democrats united to the whole 
Whig party. Cameron of Penn. was elected by the 
Whigs to the Senate, is a managing,, tricky man in 
whom no reliance is to be placed. He professes to 
be a Democrat, but he has his own personal and 
sinister purposes to effect, & I consider him little 
better than a Whig. Wescott, though elected as a 
Democrat, I consider a Whig. Of Mr. Calhoun I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 427 

forbear to express an opinion, further than to say 
that his ambition is destroying him. On one thing 
I am resolved, and that is that those in & out of 
Congress who have caused the rejection of Mr. Horn 
shall not have the man they desire appointed to fill 
the vacancy they have thus made. I will make my 
own selection, and unless my mind changes I will 
nominate Col. James Page, former P. M. at Phila. 

CI had an interview to-night with Mr. Amos Ken- 
dall and Gov. Yell of Arkansas on the subject of 
organizing a military expedition to California. 
They were both in favour of it. 

Judge Shields, commissioner of the General Land 
Office, called between 9 & 10 O'Clock. He had 
this evening addressed me a note informing me that 
he was about to leave Washington for the West. 
He had some days ago proposed to go West, to or- 
ganize and aid in bringing [out] the volunteers who 
had been called for for the Mexican War, but I 
had not assented to it, but discouraged [it]. Gen'l 
Cass and some of the Western members had made 
the same suggestion to me & I had discouraged [it]. 
I told Judge Shields that there was no propriety in 
his leaving his office, and that he could be of no 
possible use to the Government in bringing out or 
organizing the volunteers. I told him plainly that 
I thought all public officers in Washington ought 
to remain at their posts & do their duty, especially 
during the Session of Congress. I told him that I 
hoped my friends in Congress and elsewhere would 
suffer me to conduct the War with Mexico as I 
thought proper, and not plan the campaign for me 




428 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 May 

& without consulting me. I told him if he had 
private business in Illinois he could be absent from 
his office for a short time, but that there was no sort 
of necessity to employ him to go out upon any 
agency connected with the public business, & I re- 
peated to him with emphasis that my opinion was 
that he ought to remain at Washington in the dis- 
charge of his duty as commissioner of the General 
Land office. 

TUESDAY, 26th May, 1846.— The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
The Secretary of War produced a letter from Gen'l 
Scott in reply to the Secretary's letter to him on yes- 
terday. In his letter Gen'l Scott disavows that he 
meant to impute to the President the unworthy mo- 
tives mentioned in his letter of the 21 Instant, but 
says he referred to the Secretary of War & members 
of Congress who were raising a clamour and creating 
a prejudice against him. There is nothing in his 
answer which changes my determination to order 
Gen'l Scott to remain at Washington instead of 
taking command of the army on the Del Norte. 
Gen'l S's last letter is in a subdued tone and even 
passes a high compliment on me. He now sees his 
error no doubt, but it is too late to recal[l] what 
has been done. The Secretary of War read the 
rough draft of the answer which he had prepared 
to Gen'l Scott's last letter. I sent a message to the 
Senate to-day nominating Gen'l Z. Taylor of the 
army a Maj'r-Gen'l By brevet, for his gallant vic- 



v 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



429 



tories obtained over the Mexican forces on the Del 
Norte on the 8th & 9th days of this month. 

The plan of military operations against Mexico 
was the subject of a long conversation in Cabinet. 
I proposed that an expedition be immediately fitted 
out against Upper California, & after full consid- 
eration it was unanimously agreed that it should be 
done, if it was ascertained that there was time for 
two or three mounted regiments to be assembled 
and marched from Independence in Mo. to the Sac- 
ramento before the setting in of winter. 

It was agreed that Brigadier Gen'l Wool should 
be forthwith ordered to proceed west & assist in 
organizing the Volunteers & march with them to 
the Del Norte, where he would assume his command 
as a Brigadier General of the U. S. army. 

Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll of Penn. called about 
2j4 O'Clock & informed me that 10 of the Demo- 
cratic members of the Pennsylvania Delegation in 
Congress had held a caucus at the Capitol this morn- 
ing & gone into a balloting for a Collector of Phil'a 
in place of Mr. Horn, who was rejected on yester- 
day by the Senate. He stated that on the first ballot 
they had scattered, and some of those voted for were 
utterly and wholly unfit; that finally a majority had 
voted for a man named Elred, a person of whom I 
had never heard before. I promptly told Mr. In- 
gersoll that I had made up my mind as to the per- 
son whom I would nominate, and that he might so 
inform his delegation. He said he was glad of it. 
His name, he said, was [signed] to the nomination 



430 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 May 

[of] Mr. Elred by the Delegation, but it was only 
because a majority in caucus had preferred him. 
He said he himself preferred Richard Rush, but 
that I was right in making my own selection. I 
told him that I knew Mr. Horn was a good col- 
lector, that I could sleep sound on my pillow & 
know that the public money was safe in his hands; 
and that now no man who had any agency in causing 
his rejection should profit by it, by having any man 
whom they recommended appointed in his place. 

Senator Bright of Indiana expressed his great re- 
gret to me that he was absent from the Senate when 
Mr. Horn was rejected, and expressed great anxiety 
that the vote should be reconsidered. I learned, too, 
to-day that 7 Democratic Senators had been absent 
when the vote was taken. Mr. Senator Speight was 
attending the interment of his son, who died on sun- 
day last. Mr. Cameron, taking advantage of this 
thin state of the Senate, called up the nomination. 
The Senate was appealed to to adjourn but refused, 
the vote was taken, and Mr. Horn was rejected. 
This was reception evening, the crowd was so great, 
of ladies & gentlemen, that two parlours and the 
East Room had to be thrown open to accomodate 
them. 

Wednesday, 27th May, 1846. — A great crowd 
of persons, male & female, called to-day. A greater 
number of persons (strangers) are said to be in 
Washington than have been at any one time for 
many years, unless at the Inauguration of a Presi- 
dent. Among others Ex President Tyler called. I 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



43i 



spent 20 minutes in agreeable conversation with 
him. He informed me that he had come to Wash- 
ington in obedience to a summonfs] of a committee 
of Congress. I told [him] that I had heard of the 
summons and deeply regretted the proceeding, and 
wholly condemned it. I had before understood 
that one of the committees of the Ho. Repts. ap- 
pointed to investigate the quarrel between Mr. Ch. 
J. Ingersoll and Mr. Daniel Webster concerning the 
secret service fund expended during Mr. Tyler's ad- 
ministration, had issued such a summons. This in- 
formation was given to me by the Hon. Mr. Dobbin ! 
of the Ho. Repts. from N. C, & I had expressed to 
him in strong terms my disapproval of the proceed- 
ings. I thought it unnecessary, and subjecting Mr. 
Tyler to unjust annoyance. I invited Mr. Tyler to 
dine with me on Saturday next. 

Among other visitors who called to-day was Gov. 
Branch 2 of N. C. 

In the course of the day Mr. Buchanan called 
with a despatch from the Brittish Minister on the 
subject of a return of discriminating duties levied 
by the Brittish Government on American rough rice, 
in pursuance of an arrangement previously entered 
into between the Secretary of State and the Brittish 
Minister. He suggested that I should send a mes- 
sage to Congress communicating this despatch, to 
which I assented. 

1 James Cochrane Dobbin, 1814-1857, Representative from 
North Carolina 1845-1847, Secretary of the Navy 1853-1857. 

John Branch, 1 782-1 863, Governor of North Carolina 18 17, 
Secretary of the Navy 1 829-1 831. 



432 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 May 

Mr. Buchanan mentioned that he had received a 
confidential letter from Mr. McLane, expressing 
great dissatisfaction with Mr. Melville, 1 his Secre- 
tary of Legation, and expressing the hope that he 
would not be left in charge of the legation on his 
return, but that his successor would be appointed 
and sent out before he left. This hope, Mr. B. 
said, Mr. McLane expressed for the sake of the 
honour as well as the interest of the country. I then 
entered into conversation with Mr. Buchanan as to 
the proper person to succeed Mr. McLane. I 
named several persons, with none of whom was I 
entirely satisfied. Mr. Buchanan said that he would 
communicate a fact to me confidentially, and that 
was that about two months ago Mr. Robert J. 
Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, had inti- 
mated to him a desire to be appointed to the Mission 
to England on Mr. McLane's return, but expressed 
.a desire to remain in the Treasury [Department] 
until the tariff bill was disposed [of]. I replied that 
if Mr. Walker desired it, I would be disposed to 
gratify him, if I could find a suitable Secretary of 
the Treasury. 

Mr. James Thompson, Mr. Ritter, and two other 
members of the Pennsylvania Delegation in the Ho. 
Repts. called to-day & presented me a paper (the 
same of which Mr. Ingersoll had informed me on 
yesterday) recommending a Mr. Elred for Collector 
of Phil'a in place of Henry Horn, rejected by the 
Senate. I told them that I regretted that they had 
not consulted me on the subject before they held 

1 Gansevoort Melville. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 433 

their caucus, and that if they had done so I should 
promptly have told them, as I then did, that my 
mind was made up as to Mr. Horn's successor. I 
told them that Mr. Horn was an honest man and 
a good officer and one against whom there could 
have been no good objection, and that I deeply re- 
gretted the rejection of so good an officer and so good 
a man. I told them that he had been rejected by 
the United Whig party on party grounds alone, 
aided by the votes of three professed Democrats. I 
did not tell them, but the fact is so, that the three 
Democrats are Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Wescott, & Mr. 
Cameron, the two latter of whom are no further 
democrats than it is their interest to be so. I told 
them further that the Collector at Phila. handled 
millions of Public money and was a very responsible 
officer, that I wished to have no defalcations in my 
administration, & that I, being responsible for the 
appointment, would make my own selection of a 
man whom I knew & in whom I had confidence. I 
told them also that no man or his friends who had 
any agency in Mr. Horn's rejection, should ever 
profit by it, by having any man whom they preferred 
appointed to the vacancy which they had created. 
They avowed that they had no agency of this kind. 
I told them I supposed they had not, but that the 
man they had nominated in their caucus was wholly 
unknown to me or to the country, and that I would 
make my own selection. I saw Senator Hannegan, 
who was absent when Mr. Horn was rejected, who 
told me he would vote for him if renominated. Mr. 
Senator Lewis had told me the same thing on yes- 



434 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 May 

terday. Mr. Senator Sturgeon, for whom I had 
sent, called to-night and expressed the confident be- 
lief that with a full Senate Mr. Horn could yet be 
confirmed, and expressed a strong desire that I would 
re-nominate him. 

I learned, too, that Senator Johnson of Md. 
(Whig) who had voted against Mr. Horn, had on 
yesterday moved to reconsider the vote by which he 
was rejected, but as the notification of his rejection 
had been sent to me he had withdrawn the motion 
on objection being made that it was out of order. 
Upon this information I am strongly inclined to re- 
nominate Mr. Horn, but will not decide until I see 
some other of the Senators who were absent when 
he was rejected. 

Thursday, 28th May, 1846. — A great crowd of 
persons, male and female, called this morning. 
Among others Hon. Franklin H. Elmore * of 
Charleston, S. C, called. I invited him to dine 
with me on Saturday next. I sent for Senator Lewis 
& Senator Colquitt this morning. Mr. Lewis told 
me that Senator Atchison, who was absent when 
Mr. Horn was rejected as collector of Phila., would 
vote for him if nominated. Mr. Colquitt [said] he 
had been absent attending the interment of Senator 
Speight's deceased son when the vote was taken on 
Mr. Horn's case, and that he would vote for him 
if he was renominated. 

Had a conference with the Secretary of War & 

1 Franklin Harper Elmore, 1 799-1 850, chosen in 1850 to fill 
the Senatorial vacancy caused by the death of Calhoun. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 435 

Gen'l Wool to-day. Had a similar conference with 
them on yesterday. Gen'l W. was ordered to pro- 
ceed to the West and see that the volunteers were 
speedily raised and marched to the Rio Grande with 
the least possible delay. General Wool's particular 
* service in the Mexican war has not yet been deter- 
mined upon, viz., whether he is to proceed to the 
lower Rio Grande or go in a separate command to 
the Upper Provinces. This is to be decided here- 
after & his orders are to follow him. 

Senator Cameron called this evening [?] and re- 
quested me not to renominate Mr. Henry Horn as 
Collector of Philadelphia. I told him that since 
Mr. Horn had been rejected by a thin Senate, I had 
seen several Senators who had been absent who were 
anxious for his appointment, and who had requested 
me to renominate him. I told him that several 
Senators had expressed to me the opinion that in a 
full Senate he would be confirmed. I told Mr. 
Cameron that Mr. Horn was an honest man, that 
the whole commercial interests] of Phila. were sat- 
isfied with him as collector; that there could be no 
better officer, and that if I came to the conclusion 
it was proper to renominate him I should certainly 
do so. Mr. Cameron still insisted that I should not 
do so, and said if I would nominate him for any 
other office than for collector, he would vote for him. 
To this I replied that if he would vote for him for 
any other office, it was conclusive evidence that there 
was no public ground upon which as a Senator he 
had voted against him, and proved that he ought 
not to have been rejected. I told Mr. Cameron that 



436 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 May 

himself & two other Senators elected as Democrats 
(Wescott & Calhoun) but neither of whom had by 
their course given any evidence of their Democracy 
lately, had left the balance of the Democratic party, 
joined the United Whig party, and taking advan- 
tage of a thin Senate when six or eight Democratic 
Senators were absent had voted against Mr. Horn 
and rejected him. He said he was a Democrat & a 
supporter of my administration. I replied that this 
vote did not look much like it. Mr. C. left me ap- 
parently dissatisfied with the result of his interview. 
( I had several consultations to-day with the Secre- 
tary of War & some members of Congress at differ- 
ent periods of the day, concerning the manner of 
conducting the war with Mexico and especially 
about the propriety of set[ting] on foot an expedi- 
tion to California.) 

Friday, 2Qth May, 1846. — Had a large number 
of visitors, male and female, to-day. The crowd of 
strangers in Washington for the ten or fifteen days 
has been unusually great, and while my office is 
open every day my whole time is taken up in re- 
ceiving them. At 12 O'Clock I closed my doors. 
I devoted the day until evening in disposing of the 
business on my table. I had several interviews with 
the Secretary of War in the course of the day, con- 
cerning various points connected with the prosecu- 
tion of the Mexican War. The more I reflected on 
the subject the more important I thought it to de- 
spatch an expedition to California. The only doubt 
in my mind was whether there was time before the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 437 

setting in of winter to collect a force on the Western 
frontier of Missouri in time to reach the Sacramento 
River in California. It was concluded to postpone 
the decision of the question until the meeting of the 
Cabinet on to-morrow. 

This was reception evening and several hundred 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. The three 
smaller parlours were filled, and many were in the 
outer hall. The East room was not opened to-night. 

James H. Thomas, Esqr., my law partner in Ten- 
nessee, called this evening, having left his home ten 
days ago. I was gratified to learn from him that my 
aged mother was in excellent health when he left 
home. 

I renominated Henry Horn to the Senate to-day as 
Collector of Philadelphia. 

SATURDAY, 30th May, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the Attorney General, who was detained at his 
House by indisposition. 

I read to the Cabinet a Private letter from Mr. 
McLane dated London, May 8th, 1846, received this 
morning by the Steamer Great Brittain, which ar- 
rived at New York on yesterday. 

CA plan of the campaign against Mexico and the 
manner of prosecuting the War was fully considered. 
I brought distinctly to the consideration of the Cab- 
inet the question of ordering an expedition of 
mounted men to California. I stated that if the war 
should be protracted for any considerable time, it 
would in my judgment be very important that the U. 



438 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 May 

S. should hold military possession of California at 
the time peace was made, and I declared my purpose 
to be to acquire for the U. S. California, New Mex- 
ico, and perhaps some others of the Northern Prov- 
inces of Mexico whenever a peace was made. In 
Mr. Slidell's Secret instructions last autumn these 
objects were included. Now that we were at War 
the prospect of acquiring them was much better, and 
to secure that object military possession should with 
as little delay as possible be taken of all these Prov- 
inces. In these views the Cabinet concurred. The 
only doubt which remained was, whether the season 
was not too far advanced to enable an expedition of 
mounted men from Missouri to pass the mountains 
& reach California before the setting in of winter. 
In winter all whom I had consulted agreed that it 
was impracticable to make the expedition. Col. 
Benton had given me his opinion that if the expedi- 
tion could leave Independence in Mo. there would 
be time. Col. Benton had brought me Fremont's 
map and Book and given me much detailed informa- 
tion of the route and of the difficulties attending it, 
but advised the expedition this season provided it 
could move from Independence by the 1st of August. 
Col. B. had written me a note with the outline of the 
plan of the expedition, which I read to the Cabinet. 
I finally submitted a distinct proposition to the Cab- 
inet. Col. Kearney l of the U. S. army was as I 
learned an experienced officer, and had been with a 
part of his Regiment to the South Pass of the Rocky 

1 Stephen W. Kearny, promoted to rank of Brigadier General, 
June, 1846; died October 31, 1848. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



439 



mountain, and made an extensive tour in that region 
last year. Immediately after the act declaring war 
against Mexico was passed (May 13th, 1846) orders 
had been given to Col. Kearney with his Regiment to 
move to Santa Fe to protect our traders. A requisi- 
tion had at the same time been made on the Governor 
of Missouri for 1000 mounted Volunteers to go under 
Col. Kearney's command on the same service. 
These troops or a portion of them could be put en 
route for California three weeks earlier than any new 
force, which could be now ordered out. The prop- 
osition which I submitted was, that Col. Kearney 
should be ordered as soon as he took Santa Fe, if he 
thought it safe to do so & practicable for him to reach 
California before winter, to leave Santa Fe in charge 
of his Lieut. Col. with a sufficient force to hold it, 
and proceed towards California with the balance of 
his command including a portion of the 1000 
mounted men who had been ordered out. I pro- 
posed further that another 1000 mounted men should 
be immediately ordered out from Mo. to proceed to 
Bent's 1 Fort or Santa Fe, and a portion of them to 
follow Col. Kearney towards California or not, as 
Col. K. might leave orders behind him, leaving a 
large discretion to Col. K. whether he should under- 
take the California expedition this season or not, but 
expressing to him the strong wish of the Government 
that he should do so, if he thought it practicable. 
The Cabinet assented to this proposition. The Cab- 
inet adjourned after a very full discussion of the sub- 

1 Bent's Fort was located at the junction of the Arkansas River 
and the Sante Fe trail, some distance to the northeast of Sante Fe. 



44o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 May 

ject, with the understanding that the Secretary of 
War would see me again before the orders were is- 
sued. After the Cabinet adjourned I sent for Col. 
Benton, and saw him with the Secretary of War. He 
approved the general outline of the campaign. He 
suggested that Gen'l Price 1 of the Ho. Repts. of Mo. 
should command the 1000 mounted men now to be 
called out from Missouri. The Secretary of War 
promised to see Gen'l Price and come with him to 
see me before he issued the orders. 

I had a dinner company to-day, consisting of Ex 
President Tyler, Gov. Branch of N. C. (now of 
Florida) his daughter and two Granddaughters, Mr. 
Slidell, late minister to Mexico, & his wife, Senator 
Yulee of Florida & his wife, Hon. Franklin H. El- 
more of Charleston, S. C, James H. Thomas, Esqr., 
of Tennessee, Mrs. Mason (wife of the Atto. Gen'l — 
Mr. Mason was detained by sickness) and Thos. 
Ritchie, Esqr., Editor of the Union. 

After dinner I found several members of Congress 
in my office waiting to see me, who detained me until 
a late hour. I retired exceedingly fatigued having 
spent a week of great labour & anxiety in the dis- 
charge of my responsible duties. 

SUNDAY, Jlst May, 1846. — Before Church hour 
this morning the Secretary of War called with Gen'l 

1 Sterling Price ; he resigned his seat in the House to take com- 
mand of the Missouri mounted regiment, and was made Brigadier 
General for distinguished service in the war. Governor of Mis- 
souri 1853— 1857, an d prominent Confederate leader in the Civil 
War. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 441 

Price of Mo. to consult me further concerning the 
1000 mounted men to be called out from Mo. and 
about the expedition to California. 

Attended the dedication of a new Presbyterian 
church near the Patent office to-day, under the 
pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. Tuston. Mrs. Polk, 
her niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, Marshall 
T. Polk, accompanied me. The sermon (an excel- 
lent one) was delivered by the Rev. Mr. Balch of 
Va., who is the brother of the Hon. Alfred Balch of 
Nashville, Tennessee. 

The Hon. Franklin H. Elmore of Charleston S. C. 
(who dined with me on yesterday) called about 9 
O'Clock to-night & held a long and confidential con- 
versation with me about public affairs, but especially 
about the tariff and Mr. Calhoun's position in ref- 
erence to the administration. Mr. Elmore is my per- 
sonal and political friend & I conversed freely with 
him. I told him that I anxiously desired that the 
doctrines of my annual message in relation to the 
tariff and other subjects should be carried out by 
Congress, and that I would exert all my influence 
with Congress to have it done. I told him I had no 
unkind feelings towards Mr. Calhoun, and should be 
gratified if he should think proper to support my 
administration. Mr. Elmore was anxious that he 
should do so. I told him that I had done nothing to 
prevent it; that Mr. Calhoun had differed with me 
on the Oregon and Mexican questions and upon some 
of my nominations, which I regretted, but that there 
was no reason why he should not support my admin- 
istration if he was disposed to do so. I stated, too, 



442 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i June 

that the natural position of the South was to support 
my administration upon the tariff, the Constitutional 
Treasury, & other measures, because my doctrines 
were those which they had heretofore maintained. 
To this Mr. Elmore agreed. The conversation was 
a long and a very friendly one, running into many de- 
tails in relation to the policy of my administration, 
and the course of Mr. Calhoun towards it. I finally 
told Mr. Elmore that I saw no good reason why Mr. 
Calhoun should oppose me. Mr. Elmore said that 
he found Mr. Calhoun more irritable than he had 
ever known him, that he had conversed with him 
since he came to Washington, and would see him 
again, expressing the hope that he might give to my 
administration that support which Mr. Elmore 
thought it should receive from all Southern men. 

MONDAY, 1st June, 1846. — The crowd of visitors 
to-day was not so great as it had been for many days 
past, still a large number of persons called. At 12 
O'Clock I closed my doors, and until my dinner hour 
at 4 O'Clock P. M. devoted myself unceasingly to 
the business which had accumulated on my table, 
which was interrupted by short visits from the Sec- 
retaries of State, War, Treasury, and the Navy on 
official business. [ I spent more time with the Secre- 
tary of War in reference to the Mexican War and es- 
pecially the contemplated expedition to California 
than with either of the other Secretaries. 

Being much wearied by my long confinement for 
many months, I took a ride on horseback with my 
Private Secretary in the evening. We visited Judge 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



443 



Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, and found him confined to 
his bed and quite ill. 

TUESDAY, 2nd June, 1846.— The Cabinet met to- 
day; all the members present except the Atto. Gen'l, 
[who] was detained at his residence by severe indis- 
position. 

/ The manner of conducting the war with Mexico 
was the chief topic considered. The expedition 
against California was definitively settled, the Cab- 
inet being unanimous in favour of such an expedition. 
In pursuance of a conference on the subject between 
the Secretary of War and myself on yesterday, the 
Secretary read the rough draft of an order to Col. 
Kearney of the U. S. army, who was designated to 
command the expedition. Upon several points the 
order was modified upon my suggestion. It was in 
substance that as soon as Col. Kearney took possession 
of Santa Fe, he was to leave a sufficient force to hold 
it, and proceed without delay with the balance of his 
command & the mounted men ordered out from Mis- 
souri some three weeks ago towards California, if in 
his judgment he could reach California before the 
winter set in. 1000 additional mounted volunteers 
were ordered out from Missouri to proceed to Santa 
Fe, or follow Col. Kearney to California as he might 
order. For further particulars see the order of the 
Secretary of War of this date. I submitted to the 
Cabinet that a large number of cannon, small arms, 
munitions of war, and provisions should be immedi- 
ately sent from New York to the Pacific for the use 
of our army. This was unanimously approved by 



444 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 June 

the Cabinet. It was agreed that Col. Kearney should 
be authorized to take into service any emigrants 
(American citizens) whom he might find in Cali- 
fornia or who may go out with these munitions of 
War and Military stores. Col. Kearney was also 
authorized to receive into service as volunteers a few 
hundred of the Mormons who are now on their way 
to California, with a view to conciliate them, attach 
them to our country, & prevent them from taking 
part against us.j Many other matters of detail con- 
nected with the expedition were considered. The 
Cabinet adjourned at about iy 2 O'Clock P. M. 

This was reception evening. A large number of 
visitors, ladies & gentlemen, attended. As the man- 
ufacturers fair will close to-day, it is probable that 
the unusual number of strangers (chiefly manufac- 
turers and their employees) who have attended it 
will be diminished, and the City cease to be crowded 
with strangers as it has been for the last three weeks. 

WEDNESDAY, 3rd June, 1846. — Had a very busy 
morning until 12 O'Clock; had many visitors and a 
large proportion of them seeking office. Closed my 
doors as usual at 12 O'Clock. A despatch from our 
Minister (Mr. McLane) at London, dated 18th of 
May, 1846, was received this morning. It communi- 
cated the substance of the proposition which he had 
learned from Lord Aberdeen would be made by the 
Brittish Government through their minister at Wash- 
ington for the settlement of the Oregon question. If 
Mr. McLane is right in the character of the prop- 
osition which will be made, it is certain that I can- 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 445 

not accept it, and it is a matter of doubt in my mind 
whether it [will] be such as I ought to submit to the 
Senate for their previous advice before acting upon 
it. If I reject it absolutely and make no other prop- 
osition the probable result will be war. If I submit 
it to the Senate and they should advise its acceptance 
I should be bound by their advice & yet I should do 
so reluctantly. I had a conference on the sub- 
ject [with Mr. Buchanan]. He was not prepared 
without further reflection, as he said, to give his ad- 
vice on the subject. After Mr. Buchanan left, the 
Secretary of War called on business connected with 
the Mexican war, which being transacted I informed 
him of Mr. McLane's despatch. The Secretary of 
the Navy afterwards called and read it. I will prob- 
ably call a Cabinet meeting on the subject to-mor- 
row. 

( Held a conversation with Mr. Amos Kendall & 
Mr. J. C. Little of Petersborough, N. H. (a mor- 
mon) to-day. They desired to see me in relation to 
a large body of Mormon emigrants who are now on 
their way from Na[u]voo & other parts of the U. S. 
to California, and to learn the policy of the Govern- 
ment towards them. I told Mr. Little that by our 
constitution the mormons would be treated as all 
other American citizens were, without regard to the 
sect to which they belonged or the religious creed 
which they professed, and that I had no prejudices 
towards them which could induce a different course 
of treatment. Mr. Little said that they were Ameri- 
cans in all their feelings, & friends of the U. S. I 
told Mr. Little that we were at War with Mexico, 



446 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 June 

and asked him if 500 or more of the mormons now 
on their way to California would be willing on their 
arrival in that country to volunteer and enter the 
U. S. army in that war, under the command of a U. S. 
Officer. He said he had no doubt they would will- 
ingly do so. He said if the U. S. would receive them 
into the service he would immediately proceed and 
overtake the emigrants now on the way and make the 
arrangement with them to do so. I told him I would 
see him on to-morrow on the subject. I did not deem 
it prudent to tell him of the projected expedition 
into California under the command of Col. Kearney, 
who has instructions to make such an expedition this 
season if practicable. The mormons, if taken into 
the service, will constitute not more than y^ of Col. 
Kearney's command, and the main object of taking 
them into service would be to conciliate them, and 
prevent them from assuming a hostile attitude to- 
wards the U. S. after their arrival in California. It 
was with the view to prevent this singular sect from 
becoming hostile to the U. S. that I held the con- 
ference with Mr. Little, and with the same view I am 
to see him again to-morrow. 

The Marine band played on the President's 
grounds this evening. A large number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, were present. 

Thursday, 4th June, 1846. — Had the usual 
round of company to visit me to-day. The throng 
of office seekers continues with little if any abatement. 
I seriously regret that I possess any patronage. It[s] 
dispensation interferes very much with the proper 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



447 



discharge of my more important public duties. 
When there are no vacancies it is exceedingly distress- 
ing to be compelled to hear an office [seeker] for an 
hour tell his story and set forth his merits and claims. 
It is a great and useless consumption of my time, and 
yet I do not see how I am to avoid it without being 
rude or insulting, which it is not in my nature to be. 
I called a special meeting of the Cabinet at 2 
O'Clock P. M. to-day to consider of the English 
proposition on the Oregon question, the substance of 
which as it will probably be made by Mr. Pakenham 
was communicated in the despatch of Mr. McLane 
of the 1 8th ultimo. That proposition will probably 
be a line of partition of the Oregon territory by the 
line of 49 from the Rocky mountains to the Straits 
of Fuca and thence through the Straits to the sea, 
leaving the Straits in their whole extent around Van- 
couver's Island an open Sea to both nations; a fee- 
simple title to Brittish subjects for the farms and 
lands they occupy between the Columbia River and 
49 , and the free navigation of the Columbia, not to 
Brittish subjects generally but to the Hudson's Bay 
company only. I asked the advice of the Cabinet, 
if such a proposition was made by Mr. Pakenham 
what I should do. Mr. Buchanan said he did not 
feel prepared without further reflection to commit 
himself, but was inclined to the opinion that I should 
submit it to the Senate for their previous advice ac- 
companied by a message reiterating my opinions ex- 
pressed in my annual message of the 2nd of Decem- 
ber last. He said if the right of free navigation of 
the Columbia, which was the objectionable feature 



448 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 June 

of the proposition to his mind, was confined to the 
duration of the present charter of the Hudson's Bay 
company which would expire in 1859, he should be 
clear it should be submitted to the Senate for their 
previous advice. Mr. Bancroft thought such a mod- 
ification in regard to the navigation of the River 
should be made, but was clear that the proposition 
as it was with a recommendation of such a modifica- 
tion should be submitted to the Senate before I acted 
on it. Mr. B. gave his views at some length in 
favour of this course. Mr. Marcy concurred in sub- 
stance in opinion with Mr. Bancroft. Mr. Johnson 
inclined to favour the same view. Mr. Walker, Sec. 
of Treasury, and Mr. Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, were 
not present, both being detained at home by indis- 
position. No decision was made, and I expressed 
no opinion, desiring to hear the opinions of the Cab- 
inet before I did so. I requested Mr. Buchanan to 
take Mr. McLane's despatch to Mr. Walker at his 
house & confer with him on the subject, and he 
agreed to do so. The subject was postponed, & the 
Cabinet after considering various matters connected 
with the Mexican war adjourned. 

About 6 O'Clock P. M. I rode on horseback with 
my Private Secretary to the residence of Judge Ma- 
son, Atto. Gen'l, and found him still confined to his 
bed by indisposition. I stated to Judge Mason what 
the Brittish proposition would probably be, as com- 
municated by Mr. McLane, & asked his opinion of 
it. Judge Mason advised that it should be submitted 
to the Senate for their previous advice, accompanied 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



449 



with a well-considered message. I did not tell Judge 
Mason my own opinion. 

FRIDAY, 5th June, 1846. — My time was occupied 
until 12 O'Clock to-day in receiving company as 
usual, some on business, some seeking office, and 
others on visits of ceremony. I had a special inter- 
view with Mr. Amos Kendall and Mr. Little of 
N. H. (a mormon) by previous appointment at their 
request (see this diary of the 3rd Instant). I told 
them that I had consulted the Secretary of War, and 
that the conclusion to which we had come was that 
the battalion of Mormons of which mention was 
made on the 3rd Instant, could not be received into 
the service of the U. S. until they reached California, 
but that on their arrival there (if the war with Mex- 
ico still continued) they would to the number of 500 
be mustered into the service of the U. S. as volun- 
teers for 12 months, placing themselves under the 
command of a U. S. officer who would be there ready 
to receive them. Mr. Little desired to follow the 
emigrating party now on their way to California, 
and on overtaking them to have 500 of their number 
mustered into the service of the U. S. so that their 
pay might commence from that time. This prop- 
osition I declined. After Mr. Little retired I ex- 
plained to Mr. Kendall what I did not think it safe 
to communicate to Mr. Little, viz., that Col. Kearney 
was ordered to proceed from Santa Fe with a part 
of his Regiment of dragoons and the mounted vol- 
unteers called out from Mo., and it was hoped would 



**\ 1 






^" 



450 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 June 

reach California this season, but this was not certain; 
that when Col. K. reached the country he was 
authorized to receive 500 of the mormons into the 
service so as to conciliate them and prevent their be- 
coming the enemies of the U. S., but if the mormons 
reached the country I did not desire to have them the 
only U. S. forces in the country. I told Mr. Kendall 
that the citizens now settled in California at Sutter's 
settlement and elsewhere had learned that a large 
body of mormons were emigrating to that country 
and were alarmed at it, and that this alarm would be 
increased if the first organized troops of the U. S. 
that entered the country were mormons. To avoid 
this and at the same time to conciliate the mormons, 
Col. K. [was authorized] to receive mormons into the 
service after he reached the country not to exceed in 
number one fourth of his whole force. Mr. Kendall 
assented to the wisdom of concealing these views 
from Mr. Little. 

I Had a consultation with the Secretary of War 
about the Mexican war, and requested him to take 
the most prompt & vigorous steps to check the march 
of militia forces to the Rio Grande who have been 
called out by Gen'l Gaines without authority and 
without consulting the Government. Gen'l Gaines 
has greatly embarrassed the Government by his un- 
authorized orders * calling forth large bodies of 
militia and volunteers, and the danger is that a very 
large body of 3 & 6 months men may be assembled 

1 Edmund Pendleton Gaines, 1777-1849; he served in the War 
of 1 812 and under Jackson in the Creek Indian war. For the 
orders see S. Doc. 402, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 451 

on the Rio Grande for which there is no use, and 
who will consume Gen'l Taylor's provisions and 
otherwise greatly embarrass him. To prevent 
Gen'l G. from producing further embarrassment by 
his unauthorized orders he has been ordered to 
Washington. 

I learned from my private Secretary, who returned 
from the Senate about 5 O'Clock P. M., that that 
body had passed a Resolution l calling for the cor- 
respondence between Gen'l Gaines & the Secretary 
of War, and the conduct of the former in calling out 
troops without authority. I learned from him also 
that a Resolution passed the Senate calling for the 
correspondence between Gen'l Scott & the Secretary 
of War in relation to the command of the army on 
the Rio Grande. 

SATURDAY, 6th June, 1846. — The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept Mr. Mason, who is still confined at his house by 
severe indisposition. 

Mr. Buchanan submitted a proposition from the 
Brittish Government for the settlement of the Oregon 
question, which he said had just been delivered to 
him by Mr. Pakenham. The proposition which was 
in the form of a convention was read, and also a pro- 
tocol of the conference which had taken place at 
the delivery of the proposition. The proposal 2 is 
substantially that the Oregon territory shall be 

1 S. Journal, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 328. 

2 For the convention and protocol see Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. 
App. 1168-1178. 



452 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 June 

divided between the parties by the 49 parallel of 
latitude from the Rocky mountains to the Straits of 
Fuca, thence through the main channel of said 
straits to the Sea, the country south of this line to be- 
long to the U. S. and that North of it to Great Brit- 
tain. The proposition also contained two reserva- 
tions, viz., 1 st, that the Hudson's Bay company and 
all Brinish subjects in the actual occupancy of their 
farms & lands used for other purposes shall be se- 
cured in their titles to the same, south of 49 , but to 
be subject to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the 
U. S. ; and secondly, that the navigation of the 
Columbia River shall be free, not to Brittish sub- 
jects generally but to the Hudson's Bay company and 
to Brittish subjects trading with that company. As 
the Hudson's Bay company will under its present 
charter cease to exist in the year 1859, a question 
arose whether if the charter of the company should 
be extended for an additional term of time this res- 
ervation as to the right to navigate the Columbia 
would extend beyond the life of the present company 
under the existing charter. Mr. Walker and Mr. 
Marcy expressed the opinion that the right reserved 
would be limited to the existence of the company 
under the existing charter. Mr. Buchanan ex- 
pressed a different opinion, and a discussion of some 
length on this point arose between Mr. Buchanan and 
Mr. Walker. I inclined to the opinion that Mr. 
Walker was right on the point, but was not clear on 
the subject and so expressed myself. 

I asked the advice of the cabinet as to what action 
I should take on the proposition now submitted, viz., 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 4 53 

whether the proposition should be rejected, or 
whether I should submit it to the Senate for their 
previous advice. Mr. Walker, Mr. Marcy, Mr. 
Bancroft, and Mr. Johnson advised that it should be 
submitted to the Senate for their previous advice. 
Mr. Buchanan held back his opinion and was the 
last to express himself and not then until I asked his 
opinion. He said it would depend upon the char- 
acter of the message whether he would advise its 
submission to the Senate or not. He said the 54 40' 
men were the true friends of the administration and 
he wished no backing out on the subject. I felt ex- 
cited at the remark but suppressed my feelings and 
was perfectly calm. Mr. Walker made an animated 
remark in reply, and I interposed and gave the con- 
versation a different direction, for I desired no ex- 
citement or division in the Cabinet. All agreed that 
if the proposition was rejected without submitting it 
to the Senate that in the present position of the 
question I could offer no modification of it, or other 
proposition, and that if it was rejected and no other 
proposition made, war was almost inevitable. I then 
remarked to Mr. Buchanan that the substance of my 
message would be, if I submitted the proposition to 
the Senate, a reiteration of my opinions as expressed 
in my annual message of the 2d of December last, 
but in view of the action of my predecessors and of 
the debates and proceedings of Congress at its pres- 
ent Session, I submitted it to the Senate for their 
previous advice, accompanied with a distinct state- 
ment that if the Senate advised its acceptance with or 
without modifications I should conform to their ad- 



454 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 June 

vice; but if they declined to express an opinion, or 
by the constitutional majority to give their advice, I 
should reject the proposition. Mr. Buchanan then 
said that with such a message as that he would ad- 
vise its submission to the Senate. I then asked Mr. 
Buchanan to prepare such a message. He declined 
to do so, but said if I would prepare a draft of one he 
would examine it, and make such suggestions as 
might seem to him to be proper. I told him I would 
do so. The Cabinet adjourned, after having con- 
sidered several questions in relation to the war with 
Mexico. Mr. Marcy remained after the other mem- 
bers had retired, on business connected with the mil- 
itary operations. He remarked to me that Mr. Bu- 
chanan's course was a very queer one, for that he had 
been for a long time the most strenuous advocate of 
settling the question on the basis of the 49 ° of North 
Latitude, and had often said in & out of the Cabinet 
that he would be willing to take the whole responsi- 
bility of settling the question on the basis of 49 . 
This I remembered distinctly, and it was not until 
within a short time since that he gave indications of 
a change of position. The first indication I had of 
it was a remark which fell from him incidentally 
.when speaking of the subject, to the purport that 
Gen'l Cass had made character by his course in the 
Senate on the subject. Gen'l C. was a 54 40' man. 
In the course of the discussion in the Cabinet to-day, 
I have omitted to state one fact, viz., after Mr. Bu- 
chanan had stated his views & said it would depend 
on the character of the message whether he would 
advise the submission of the proposition to the Sen- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



455 



ate, Mr. Walker said in an emphatic tone that he was 
in favour of submitting it to the Senate, but that he 
would be opposed to it unless it was understood that 
every member of the Cabinet would support the 
measure, but that if any member of the Cabinet 
should exert an influence in his intercourse with Sen- 
ators to prevent his [their] acceptance of the prop- 
osition with or without modification, he would be op- 
posed to submitting it to the Senate. I interposed 
promptly and said of course if it was submitted to 
the Senate every member of the Cabinet would sup- 
port the views presented in the message; and before 
the message was sent in, I remarked, there must be 
unanimity in the Cabinet in regard to it. 

SUNDAY, yth June, 1846. — The great pressure of 
public duties relating to the prosecution of the war 
with Mexico, the preparation of a message 1 in re- 
lation to Gen'ls Gaines & Scott, and a message on 
the Oregon question with a view to submit the prop- 
osition for a settlement of that question made on yes- 
terday by the Brittish Minister, compelled me most 
reluctantly to remain at home and decline accom- 
panying Mrs. Polk to church. The Secretary of 
War and the Secretary of the Navy who were nec- 
essarily engaged in the discharge of their respective 
duties called several times in the course of the day to 
consult me. At one time they were present together. 
One of them, Mr. Marcy I think, remarked that Mr. 
Buchanan's course in the Cabinet meeting of yester- 
day on the Oregon question, was very strange. A 

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 448. 



456 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 June 

conversation followed in which they both remarked 
that during the whole of last year, and up to within a 
short time past, he had been the most strenuous ad- 
vocate of settling the question by making a Treaty 
on the basis of 49 , and had several times said he was 
willing to take the whole responsibility of settling it 
on that basis. They remembered, too, that in the 
early part of our discussions in Cabinet on the sub- 
ject, he had repeatedly said when advocating a settle- 
ment at 49 , that he believed he stood alone on that 
subject in the Cabinet. I remembered all they said. 
My impression is that Mr. Buchanan intends now to 
shun all responsibility for the submission of the Brit- 
tish proposition to the Senate, but still he may wish 
it to be done without his agency, so that if the 54 40' 
men shall complain, he may be able to say that my 
message submitting it did not receive his sanction. 
I shall be disappointed if any message which can be 
drawn will receive his assent. He will choose to dis- 
sent and if it is condemned he will escape all respon- 
sibility. In his despatches to Mr. McLane I have 
more than once, & in the presence of the Cabinet, 
caused paragraphs to be struck out yielding as I 
thought too much to Great Brittain, and now it is 
most strange that he should take suddenly, and with- 
out the assignment of any reason, the opposite ex- 
treme, and talk as he did on yesterday of " backing 
out from 54 40V His course is one which I can- 
not approve. Mr. Marcy and Mr. Bancroft both 
condemned it in decided terms. 

After night Mr. Dallas, Vice Pres't U. S., called, 
& I informed him confidentially of the proposition 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 457 

which had been made for the settlement of the Ore- 
gon question by the Brittish Minister. He approved 
of my purpose to submit it to the Senate for their 
previous advice before I acted on it. 

MONDAY, 8th June, 1846. — I directed my porter 
this morning to inform all persons who called that I 
was engaged and could see no company. I desired 
to devote the day to the preparation of my message 
to the Senate submitting the proposition of the Brit- 
tish Government for the adjustment of the Oregon 
question which had been made on the 6th Instant, 
and been considered on that day in Cabinet. I de- 
sired also to give attention to measures proper to be 
adopted for the vigorous prosecution of the war with 
Mexico. To enable me to attend to these important 
duties I directed my porter to bring me no names or 
cards, but to admit any of the Cabinet or public offi- 
cers on business. Notwithstanding this positive 
order I was greatly annoyed every twenty or ten min- 
utes by the calls of public officers or by the delivery 
of letters by my messenger. Among other annoy- 
ances my messenger reported to me that Mr. Charles 
J. Ingersoll had called, and on receiving information 
that my orders were that I would see no one, and re- 
ceive the card of no one, the messenger informed me 
that Mr. Ingersoll said that I had sent for him & 
had important business with him. I told the messen- 
ger to tell him that I had not sent for him & had no 
business with him and that I was so much engaged 
that I had closed my doors to-day, but as his name 
had been brought to me I told my messenger to tell 



458 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 June 

him that if he had important business with me I 
could not refuse to see him. He came in & had no 
business but to talk to me about the propriety of re- 
calling Mr. Wise * as Minister to Brazil. Engaged 
as I was, with my mind absorbed in much more im- 
portant matters, I was very impatient, and he might 
as well have talked to me of " the man in the moon." 
I notice this instance as I might many others of use- 
less consumption of my time. I told Mr. Ingersoll 
that I had considered [it], and I suppose I mani- 
fested, what I felt, some impatience, and Mr. I. after 
boring me for a time about what I had no time to con- 
sider, left. In the course of the morning I saw the 
Secretaries of State, Treasury, War, and Navy at 
different times on business. Mr. Buchanan called 
early in the day (before 12 O'Clock) and I told him 
that I had closed my doors to-day, but had been not- 
withstanding greatly interrupted & annoyed. I told 
him I was engaged in preparing my message to the 
Senate on the Oregon question, and again asked him, 
as I had done in the Cabinet meeting on Saturday, 
to aid me in preparing it. He again declined, and 
said he wished to have no agency in its preparation. 
He said that the remark of the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury in Cabinet on Saturday, that he would oppose the 
submission of the Brittish proposition to the Senate 
for their advice if any member of the Cabinet was 
to exert his influence with senators to prevent a set- 
tlement of the question [was meant to apply to him]. 
I told Mr. Buchanan that I remembered the remark 

1 Henry A. Wise of Virginia, 1 806-1876, appointed minister to 
Brazil in 1843. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 459 

but that I had not understood it to apply to him par- 
ticularly. He said it did apply to him, and was so 
intended, because he was at the time engaged in the 
discussion with Mr. Walker. Mr. Buchanan de- 
clined to aid me in preparing the message when re- 
quested a second time to do so, and I was confirmed 
in the impression which I had on Saturday that he 
intended to avoid all responsibility. Mr. Buchanan 
left, and about 1 O'Clock returned bringing with him 
several of his despatches to Mr. McLane and Mr. 
McLane's despatches to him, and expressed doubts 
whether any of them should be sent to the Senate 
with my message. I could not help coming to the 
conclusion that his reason for not being willing to 
send them to the Senate was that they, especially his 
own despatches, expressed different opinions in 
favour of the settlement of the Oregon question on 
the basis of 49 , different from the position which he 
now wished to occupy in favour of the extreme right 
up to 54 40'. After he had done reading them, not 
deeming it very important whether they were sent 
to the Senate or not, I told him I left it to him to 
select what portions of the correspondence, if any, 
should be sent to the Senate. He then said; Well! 
when you have done your message I will then prepare 
such an one as I think ought to be sent in. I felt ex- 
cited at this remark, as he had on Saturday and on 
this morning refused to aid me in preparing my mes- 
sage, and I said to him, for what purpose will you 
prepare a message? You have twice refused, though 
it is a subject relating to your Department, to give 
me any aid in preparing my message; do you wish, 



4 6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 June 

after I have done, to draw up a paper of your own 
in order to make an issue with me? He became ex- 
cited and said that remark st[r]uck him to the heart, 
and asked me if I thought him capable of doing such 
a thing? I replied, you have twice refused to give 
me any aid in preparing my message though re- 
quested to do so, and notwithstanding you see that I 
am overwhelmed with other important public duties 
and have been subject to constant interruptions, and 
now you say that after I have done you will prepare 
a message such as you think ought to be sent in ; and 
I asked him for what purpose will you do this, and 
he replied to submit it to you. I said, you have not 
before said that this was your purpose; to which he 
replied that it was to [be] implied that such was his 
purpose. I then told him that I thought I had cause 
to complain that he had not aided me when requested, 
but that if I had misunderstood him, I retracted the 
remark. The conversation became a very painful 
and unpleasant one, but led to mutual explanations 
that seemed to be satisfactory. I told him I had 
never had any unkind feelings towards him person- 
ally or politically. He expressed his friendship for 
me and for Mrs. Polk. After a most unpleasant in- 
terview he retired. 

My Private Secretary is confined to his room by 
indisposition to-day, and Hampton C. Williams, a 
clerk in the War Department, attended in his office 
and officiated in his place. Mr. Trist, the Chief 
Clerk in the State Department, took a message to the 
Senate in answer to a call which that body had made 
in relation to Gen'l Gaines and Gen'l Scott. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 461 

TUESDAY, gth June, 1846.— The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept the Attorney General, who is still confined to 
his house by indisposition. I read my message to the 
Senate submitting for their advice the Brittish prop- 
osition for the adjustment of the Oregon question. 
All the Cabinet present except Mr. Buchanan ap- 
proved it. It was a message of some length and I 
will preserve the manuscript for future reference. 
Mr. Buchanan objected to some portions of it. A 
discussion ensued between him and other members 
of the Cabinet. I remained silent. Mr. Bancroft 
reminded Mr. Buchanan of a remark which he had 
made in the Cabinet some months ago, that the title 
of the U. S. North of 49 ° was a shackling one. Mr. 
Buchanan said that remark related to Fraser's River, 
and that the Brittish Government had never placed 
their claim to that River on the proper ground. Mr. 
Bancroft reminded him of several of his own de- 
spatches to Mr. McLane strongly in favour of a set- 
tlement of the question on the basis of 49 ° and hinted 
intelligibly enough at his recent strange and unac- 
countable change of position. Several suggestions 
in way of objection to parts of my message were 
made by Mr. Buchanan. I at length spoke and said 
I would yield anything but principle for the sake of 
harmony and union in the Cabinet on this important 
subject. Mr. Buchanan then said if I would give 
him my draft of the message he would go into an- 
other room and draw up such a draft as he would ap- 
prove. I told him to do so, and he took my draft and 
retired. He was gone more than an hour and re- 



462 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 June 

turned with his draft and read it. I saw at once it 
would not do, but said nothing. The other members 
of the Cabinet each in turn expressed objections to 
it. I at length proposed, in order to obtain union of 
opinion, to strike out a large part of my draft, leav- 
ing only that portion which proposed to submit the 
Brinish proposition to the Senate for their advice, 
the reasons which induced me to ask that advice, re- 
iterating the opinions expressed in my annual mes- 
sage and declaring that I would be governed in my 
action by the advice which the Senate might give. 
Mr. Buchanan and all the other members of the Cab- 
inet agreed to this, and after a session of more than 
five hours the message in this form was agreed to & 
the Cabinet adjourned. In the course of the evening 
I sent for Senators Cass, Allen, & Turney and com- 
municated to each the character of the Brittish prop- 
osition which had been made and of the confidential 
message asking the advice of the Senate, which I pro- 
posed to send in on to-morrow. 

This was reception evening and about 100 persons, 
ladies and gentlemen, called. Mr. Senator Hay- 
wood remained after the company dispersed, when I 
informed him as I had done Messrs. Cass, Allen, and 
Turney, of the message which I would send in on to- 
morrow. Mr. Allen thought I ought to reject the 
Brittish proposition and not consult the Senate. The 
other three Senators thought I ought to consult the 
Senate. Gen'l Cass thought I was bound to do so, 
though he would be compelled to vote against ad- 
vising me to accept the Brittish proposition. He 
said however that if it was accepted by the Senate he 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 463 

would never be heard to utter a word afterwards on 
the subject. 

Wednesday, 10th June, 1846. — Received visitors 
this morning until ny 2 O'Clock. Had the usual 
round of company, some to pay their respects & others 
seeking office. 

I sent for Senators Benton and Dickinson this 
morning, and informed them of the message I in- 
tended to send to the Senate to-day, asking the advice 
of that body in relation to the Brittish proposal for 
the adjustment of the Oregon question. Senators 
Houston, Bagby, and Niles called and I gave them 
the same information. About 2 O'Clock P. M. Mr. 
Trist, ch. Clk. in the State Department, took the 
message * to the Senate, my Private Secretary being 
still confined to his room by indisposition. 

About 2J/2 O'Clock I sent for Mr. Buchanan, who 
had on the day previous informed me of the death 
of Judge Randall, District Judge of the U. S. for the 
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I informed him 
that it was necessary to make the appointment of a 
Judge speedily, and that I desired to consult him in 
regard to the person to be appointed. He mentioned 
no person whom he desired to have appointed. I 
then told him my mind was made up to appoint John 
K. Kane of Phila. unless he had insuperable objec- 
tions to him. He said he had no such objections, that 
Mr. Kane would not be his choice, but that he would 
make a respectable judge and that he would not ob- 
ject to him. I then told him I would nominate him 

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 449. 



464 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [10 June 

on to-morrow. He said that Mr. Kane was now 
Atto. Gen'l of Pennsylvania, a very important office 
in that State, which would be vacated by his appoint- 
ment to the Federal Bench. He said he would write 
to Gov. Shunk to-day, and urge him to appoint Mr. 
John M. Read, who had been a leading friend of Mr. 
Muhlenberg, who was the opponent of Gov. Shunk 
for Governor, and said Mr. Read's appointment 
would harmonize and reunite the party in the State. 
He suggested to me that I should write on the sub- 
ject either to Gov. Shunk or Hon. Jesse Miller, his 
Secretary of State. 

I had fully considered the relations (in some re- 
spects unpleasant) which had for several months 
existed between Mr. Buchanan and myself, rela- 
tions which had been produced as I believed 
mainly by Mr. B.'s sensitiveness about my ap- 
pointments to office & I had made up my mind to 
gratify his wish to be himself appointed a Judge of 
the Supreme Court of the U. S. in place of Judge 
Baldwin dec'd. Mr. Buchanan's desire to go on the 
Supreme bench may be found recorded in this diary 
a short time before the meeting of Congress, and 
again immediately after Mr. Woodward's rejection 
by the Senate. Having previously made up my 
mind on the subject, I told Mr. Buchanan that as the 
Oregon question would probably soon be settled, that 
if he still desired it I would, as soon as that question 
was disposed of, appoint him to the Supreme Court. 
The offer seemed to be unexpected to him, but it was 
evident he was much gratified. This led to a long 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 465 

explanation of a pleasant character of the relations 
which had existed between us for some months past. 
He finally said that he had long desired to go on the 
Bench of the Supreme Court, but he had for some 
time past given it up altogether, and that he would 
desire a little time to consider it, though it was evi- 
dent to me that he was delighted with the offer and 
intended to accept it. He was in an unusually pleas- 
ant humour and said he had thought of the mission to 
England or of returning to the Senate of the U. S., 
and remarked that Mr. Cameron had repeatedly told 
him that he would resign at any time to give place to 
him, if he desired it. He added that he thought he 
could be of more service to my administration in the 
Senate than in his present position. After a long 
conversation he retired, manifestly changed in his 
feelings and in a very pleasant humour. 

There was music on the President's grounds this 
evening, and many hundreds of persons attended. 

THURSDAY, nth June, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Among others Sen- 
ators Cass and Dickinson of N. York, both of whom 
were in favour of 54 40' on the Oregon question, and 
expressed to me in the strongest terms their satisfac- 
tion at my message to the Senate on yesterday, sub- 
mitting the Brittish proposal for an adjustment of 
the question. They said they would vote against ad- 
vising its acceptance, but that after all that had oc- 
cur [r]ed on the question they did not see how I as 
President of the U. S. could have done otherwise 



466 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 June 

than I had done, and that they approved my submis- 
sion of the subject to the Senate. I expressed my sat- 
isfaction at hearing these sentiments. 

I occupied the balance of the day in disposing of 
the business on my table, and in the course of the day 
had official interviews with the Secretaries of War, 
Treasury, and State. Mr. Buchanan appeared to be 
in a fine humour. 

Friday, 12th June, 1846. — Saw company as usual 
to-day, until 12 O'Clock, when I closed my doors. 
Among others the Hon. Mr. BrinkerhofT, 1 a Repre- 
sentative in Congress from Ohio, called. He asked 
a private interview of a few minutes which I gave 
him. He requested me to appoint him a Paymaster 
in the army, three additional Paymasters having 
been authorized by a bill which has passed Congress, 
but which has not yet been presented to me for my 
approval and signature. He said he wished me to 
give him a frank answer. I told him that the fact 
that he was a member of Congress would be an ob- 
jection to his appointment. I told him that the 
Constitution rendered members of Congress ineligi- 
ble to any civil office which was created during the 
term for which he was elected, and the principle 
would to some extent apply to an office of this de- 
scription, which was not strictly a military office. I 
told him that Gen'l Jackson had been much cen- 
sured for appointing members of Congress to office, 
and that I had during the present Session refused to 

1 Jacob Brinkerhoff, Representative from Ohio 1843-1847, noted 
as trie reputed author of the Wilmot Proviso. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 467 

appoint either of two members of Congress to the 
District Judgeship in Va. which had become vacant, 
and that I had refused also to appoint a member of 
Congress to be Col. of the Mounted Rifle Regiment, 
which had been authorized by an act of Congress 
during the present Session. I told him I had re- 
fused to appoint other members of Congress to other 
offices. I observed to him that Cabinet officers, 
Ministers abroad, or Judges of the Supreme Court, 
and perhaps a few others of high grade would con- 
stitute an exception to the general rule. There 
might be cases in which other officers might be se- 
lected from Congress, but I think they are rare. 

The Secretary of State and Secretary of War each 
called on business to-day. About 6 O'Clock P. M. 
the Secretary of the Senate called and delivered to 
me a Resolution of the Senate, passed as stated on 
its face with the concurrence of two thirds of the 
Senators present, advising me " to accept the pro- 
posal of the Brittish Government," accompanying my 
message to the Senate of the 10th Instant, " for the 
settlement of the Oregon question." About 7 
O'Clock P. M. the Secretary of the Senate sent to 
me a copy of the Executive Journal of this day, from 
which it appears that the vote on the Resolution ad- 
vising acceptance of the Brittish proposition stood 
ayes 38, noes 12. 

This was reception evening and about 100 persons, 
ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, ijth June, 1846. — Saw Mr. Bu- 
chanan early this morning, and communicated to 



468 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 June 

him the Proceedings and resolution of the Senate, ad- 
vising by a vote of ayes 38 to noes 12 the acceptance 
of the Brittish proposition for the settlement of the 
Oregon question, which was communicated to the 
Senate by my message of the 10th Instant. It was 
agreed that he should see Mr. Pakenham this morn- 
ing and agree upon a time when the Treaty in pur- 
suance of the advice of the Senate should be signed. 

The Cabinet held a regular meeting to-day, all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury and the Atto. Gen'l, both of whom were detained 
at their homes by indisposition. The Secretary of 
the Treasury wrote me a note, that if it was impor- 
tant he would endeavour to attend. It being a thin 
Cabinet no important business was transacted. I 
conferred with the Secretary of War in relation to 
many matters of detail in relation to the prosecution 
of the War with Mexico. The Cabinet adjourned 
about 1 O'Clock P. M. 

Mr. Henry Horn called to-day. He had come to 
Washington in consequence of a letter addressed to 
him at my instance two days ago by the Secretary 
of the Treasury. This letter was written at the sug- 
gestion of Mr. Buchanan, who represented that Sena- 
tor Cameron, who had made opposition to Mr. 
Horn's confirmation as collector of Phila., was dis- 
posed to cease that opposition, and Mr. Buchanan 
thought that if Mr. Cameron & Mr. Horn could hold 
a conversation together the whole matter could be 
accommodated. Mr. Horn said he had no objection 
to converse with Mr. Cameron but that he could 
make no explanations which were unbecoming an in- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 469 

dependent or honorable man. Mr. Buchanan called 
in shortly afterwards, and I told him Mr. Horn was 
here as he had suggested two days ago. Mr. B. said 
he would return to his office, and send for Cameron. 
In the course of an hour Mr. Buchanan informed 
me that he had seen Cameron who said he would 
be glad to see Mr. Horn at Gadsby's Hotel l at 2 
O'Clock P.M. About i*/ 2 O'Clock P.M. Mr. 
Horn called again, and I informed him what Mr. 
Buchanan had said. Mr. Horn acted with great 
propriety and delicacy. He said he should not have 
thought of coming to Washington, lest it might be 
supposed that he had come to Washington to elec- 
tioneer with Senators to secure his confirmation. He 
said he came on the receipt of Mr. Walker's letter 
requesting it, and that as he now learned from Mr. 
Buchanan through me that Mr. Cameron would be 
pleased to see him, he would call on him at Gadsby's 
at the hour indicated. He said he would hold a 
frank conversation with Mr. Cameron, but not capi- 
tulate or compromise his independence or his honour 
for his office. I told him that that was precisely the 
manner in which I expected he would act. I told 
him that Mr. Cameron had through Mr. Buchanan, 
as above stated, made the advance & indicated a will- 
ingness to hold a free conversation with him & that 
I thought he ought to call and hold such a conversa- 
tion. He said he would do so and left, as I under- 
stood him, with that intention. 

Col. Joel L. Jones of Somerville, Tennessee (who 
is my personal and political friend) & his wife, Mrs. 

1 Better known by its later name of Coleman's Hotel. 



470 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 June 

Stanton (the wife of Hon. Mr. Stanton, a Represent- 
ative in Congress from Tennessee) and the P. M. 
Gen'l took a family dinner with me to-day. 

SUNDAY, 14th June, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian Church to-day, in company with Mrs. 
Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Mrs- J. Knox 
Walker. 

MONDAY, 15th June, 1846. — Saw the usual round 
of company this morning. I had to-day a company 
of visitors who exhibited a striking contrast with 
each other. Some were gentlemen introduced by 
Senators and Representatives, who called to pay their 
respects; others were importunate seekers after of- 
fice; and others again begging money. I was ex- 
ceedingly disgusted with the two latter classes, and 
was glad when 12 O'Clock came, that being the hour 
of closing my office. 

Among other visitors who called to-day, very un- 
expectedly to me, was J. Geo. Harris of Tennessee, 
whose nomination as a purser in the Navy is now 
pending before the Senate. 

At \]/2 P. M. to-day I received by the Telegraph 
a message from Coleman & Stetson dated " Astor 
House, N. Y., June 15th, 1846," (this day) as fol- 
lows, viz., " General Armstrong, special messenger 
from the Minister of England, directs us to inform 
you that he has just arrived by the Great Western, 
bearer of despatches." 

About 3^4 P. M. to-day the Secretary of State and 
the Brittish Minister concluded & signed a con- 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



47i 



vention for the settlement of the Oregon question, 
being the same submitted by the latter on the 6th In- 
stant, by me submitted to the Senate for their advice 
on the 10th, and by that body advised on the 12th 
Instant. Mr. Buchanan brought the convention to 
me, and my Private Secretary started with it, ac- 
companied with a message from me, to the Senate, 
but before he reached the Capitol the Senate had 
adjourned for the day. 

About 11 O'Clock this morning Senators Cass and 
Dickinson called, and informed me that in conse- 
quence of the action of the Senate on the Oregon 
question Senator Allen had resolved to resign his 
place as chairman of the committee of Foreign af- 
fairs of the Senate. I expressed my hope that he 
would not do so. Gen'l Cass told me that he stood 
second on the committee of Foreign affairs, and that 
Mr. Allen had advised him to resign also. Both Mr. 
Dickinson and myself expressed the opinion that he 
ought not to do so. About 3 O'Clock Gen'l Cass 
called again and informed me that after he left me 
this morning, a consultation was held between Mr. 
Allen, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Atherton, 1 and himself, all 
democratic members of the committee of Foreign 
affairs of the Senate, in which Mr. Allen insisted 
that they should resign with him, and that they had 
all declined to do so. Upon the meeting of the Sen- 
ate (Gen'l Cass informed me) Mr. Allen made a 

1 Charles Gordon Atherton, Senator from New Hampshire 
1843-1849, and 1852-1853. Author of the famous " gag resolu- 
tions " of 1838 against the reception of anti-slavery petitions in the 
House. 



472 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 June 

speech and resigned. 1 Gen'l Cass informed me that 
he had made a speech declining to resign, but re- 
questing that he might not be made chairman of the 
committee in Mr. Allen's place. He read to me the 
substance of what he had said. 

Col. Benton called at 8 O'Clock P. M. and in- 
troduced to me Col. McGaffin of Chihu[a]hua in 
Mexico, an intelligent merchant & trader in that 
country. Col. McGaffin was, as he said, a native of 
Kentucky, but has resided in Mexico for the last 
twenty years. I had a conversation of an hour with 
him, in the presence of Col. Benton, and derived 
from him much valuable information in relation to 
the Northern Provinces of Mexico, the character of 
the country, and the means of conducting a cam- 
paign in them. I requested Col. McGaffin to call on 
me at 12 O'Clock on Wednesday next & he promised 
to do so. 

Tuesday, 1 6th June, 1846. — This was the regu- 
lar day of meeting of the Cabinet. Before the hour 
of meeting of the Cabinet, several persons gained ad- 
mittance to my office, upon the representation to 
my messenger that they had important business. 
Though much engaged in preparing a message to the 
Senate in answer to a call made by that body in re- 
lation to the measures proper to be adopted for the 
purpose of raising additional means for the prosecu- 
tion of the war with Mexico I consented to see them, 
and was much annoyed to find that their important 
business with me consisted in importunate applica- 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. I Sess. 972. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



473 



tions for office. I was enabled, however, before the 
meeting of the Cabinet to finish my message to the 
Senate. I sent it to the Senate. I sent also a mes- 
sage laying before the Senate the convention with 
Great Brittain concerning the Oregon territory, 
which was concluded and signed on yesterday, in 
conformity of [with] the advice of the Senate, in 
their Resolution of the 12th Instant. 

There was a full meeting of the Cabinet to-day, 
all the members being present. I brought up for 
consideration the propriety of sending a Regiment of 
Volunteers from New York by sea to California to 
join Col. Kearney's command, which had been or- 
dered to proceed from Missouri overland to Cali- 
fornia. All the members of the Cabinet expressed 
opinions favourable to such a movement. No defi- 
nitive decision was made, but it was concluded that 
I should address a letter to Capt. John A. Thomas 
of New York, late of the U. S. army, who it was 
understood was raising a Regiment of Volunteers, 
and request him to come to Washington, that I might 
confer with him and ascertain whether, if such an ex- 
pedition was ordered, he would tender his Regiment 
for that service. I wrote the letter to Capt. Thomas 
before the Cabinet dispersed. Various other matters 
connected with the war with Mexico were consid- 
ered. 

Mr. Healey, the artist, requested the cabinet & 
myself to go into the parlour and suffer him to take 
a degguerryotype likeness of the whole of us in a 
groupe. We gratified him. We found Mrs. Madi- 
son in the parlour with the ladies. Three attempts 



474 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 June 

were made to take the likeness of myself, the Cabinet, 
& the ladies in a group, all of which failed. 

Gen'l Robert Armstrong, U. S. Consul at Liver- 
pool, & his brother, Maj'r William Armstrong, took 
a family dinner with me to-day. 

This being one of our reception evenings a fash- 
ionable assembly of ladies and gentlemen to the num- 
ber of more than 100 persons called. 

I learn that the Senate made several unsuccessful 
ballots to-day, to elect a Chairman of the Committee 
of Foreign affairs of the Senate in place of Mr. Al- 
len who resigned on yesterday. An Election was de- 
feated by Mr. Allen and his friends, who refused, as 
I learn, to vote for Mr. Sevier, who had been selected 
as the Democratic Candidate, but scattered their 
votes, and some of them voted for Mr. Archer, the 
Whig candidate. I learned also from Mr. Colquitt, 
a Senator, that in Executive Session, when my mes- 
sage transmitting the convention concerning Oregon 
was taken up, that Mr. Hannegan had made a vio- 
lent speech, and that several of the North Western 
Senators were excited & in a bad temper. 

WEDNESDAY, 17th June, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'Clock to-day. Quite a large number of 
persons called. 

Shortly after 12 O'Clock Col. McGaffin of Chi- 
hu[a]hua in Mexico, who was introduced to me on 
monday last by Col. Benton, called according to ap- 
pointment. The Secretary of War was present. 
We held a long conversation with Col. McGaffin, 
in relation to the projected campaign into Mexico. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 4 75 

He is a very intelligent man, and gave us much val- 
uable information. He tendered his services to the 
Government of the U. S. in any way in which he 
could be useful. He said he was an American citi- 
zen, never having thrown off his allegiance to the 
U. S. It was concluded that he could be useful in 
furnishing supplies for the army, and conciliating the 
people of the Northern Provinces of Mexico to the 
U. S., and with that view he was informed that 
the Secretary of War would on to-morrow give him 
letters to Col. Kearney who was in command of the 
expedition to Santa Fe, and also to the officer 
who might be in command of an expedition to Chi- 
hu[a]hua, requesting them to avail themselves of his 
services. 

Senator Breese of Illinois called this morning. 
He was at the drawing room last evening & I had 
requested him to call this morning. I had a full 
conversation with him upon the Oregon question and 
my course in relation to it. I referred him to the 
fact that in my message to the Senate of the ioth 
Instant I had reiterated the opinions which I had 
expressed in my annual message of the 2nd of De- 
cember last. I told him that I had at the com- 
mencement of the present Session of Congress con- 
ferred freely with Mr. Allen, the chairman of the 
Committee of Foreign affairs of the Senate, on the 
subject. I told him that my opinion on the abstract 
question of title remained unchanged as I had ex- 
pressed it in my annual message, but that for the 
reasons stated in that message I had in July last (re- 
luctantly to be sure) offered the 49 ° as a line of 



476 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 June 

boundary, and that upon the appearance of my mes- 
sage the whole country had approved what I had 
done; I told him that in my interview with Mr. Al- 
len at the commencement of the Session, and several 
times since, I had repeatedly told him that I would 
make no further proposition, but that if the Brittish 
Government (as I anticipated they might) should 
return to me my offer of 49 ° or what was equiva- 
lent to it with slight modifications, I should feel in- 
clined to submit such proposition to the Senate for 
their previous advice, and that Mr. Allen had fully 
concurred in these views & had advised me to take 
this course. I told him that after the debates and 
proceedings which had taken place in Congress at 
the present session, and especially in the Senate, I had 
felt it to be my duty to do so. I told him that when 
the recent Brittish proposition was made, I had made 
up my mind that it was my duty to submit it to the 
Senate for their previous advice before I acted upon 
it. I told him that I had on the 9th Instant (being 
the day before I submitted it to the Senate) sent for 
Mr. Allen and informed him of what had occurred 
and what I deemed it my duty to do. Mr. Breese 
said he approved my course, but added that some of 
the 54 40' men felt wounded that Mr. Haywood 
should have my confidence and have moved the 
Resolution in Executive Session advising me to ac- 
cept the Brittish proposal. I told him that Mr. 
Haywood had acted voluntarily, and without my re- 
quest or advice in that matter. I told him that I 
had no more knowledge that Mr. Haywood would 
make such motion than the man in Africa, & that 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



477 



the fact that he had done so should give no cause 
of offence with me with any of my friends. I told 
him that on the same evening (the 9th Instant) on 
which I had consulted with Mr. Allen, I had con- 
sulted also with Gen'l Cass and Mr. Turney, and in- 
formed them of what I intended to do, and that they 
both approved of what I intended to do; that Mr. 
Haywood had not been sent for by me, but that being 
my evening for receiving company, Mr. Haywood 
with more than 100 others had called; that Mr. Hay- 
wood remained until the company retired, and I had 
informed him of the Brittish proposition and that 
I intended on the next day to send a message to the 
Senate asking their previous advice on the subject, 
but that I had not expressed to him or to any other 
Senator any wish or opinion as to the course which 
the Senate should take on the subject, and repeated 
to him that I was wholly ignorant of Mr. Haywood's 
intention to move such a resolution and did not know 
that he had done so until I saw the resolution in the 
Executive Journal of the Senate which had been fur- 
nished to me by the Secretary of the Senate on the 
evening of the 12th Instant, the day on which he had 
moved it. Mr. Breese expressed himself entirely 
satisfied. 

The Marine band played on the President's 
grounds this evening, and several hundred persons 
attended. Among them were Mr. & Mrs. Samuel 
D. Ingham of Pennsylvania, whom I had not seen 
since Mr. Ingham retired from Gen'l Jackson's Cabi- 
net. Mr. I. and myself were at all times personal 
friends & our meeting was a very pleasant one. 



478 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 June 

At S J / 2 O'Clock this evening the Hon. Mr. Doug- 
lass of the Ho. Repts. from Illinois called and I 
had a long conversation with him on the Oregon 
question. I explained to him my course & stated to 
him that I stood upon the same ground I had taken 
in my annual Message, and that in my action on the 
subject I had been entirely consistent. Mr. D. 
stated his dissatisfaction at a land officer whom I had 
appointed at Springfield in Illinois. I told him 
that I had continued the old officer who had been 
strongly recommended by Senator Breese, the Gov- 
ernor of Illinois, & many citizens of that State, as 
a good officer & a sound Democrat. He com- 
plained also that I had appointed a Whig in Illinois 
a 2nd Lieutenant in the Rifle Regiment lately raised. 
I told him that we were at war with a Foreign coun- 
try and that I thought it improper to make politics 
a test in appointments in the army, and that I had 
resolved therefore to appoint some Whigs to office in 
the army. I told him that all the political friends 
with whom I had conversed had agreed with me in 
this, but when I came to make the selections none of 
my friends in Congress wished any Whig appointed 
from his State, but all said they were willing that I 
might select Whigs from any other State than their 
own. I think Mr. Douglass became ashamed of his 
objection. In the beginning of the conversation his 
tone was a dissatisfied one, but before he left he 
seemed to be satisfied, and said on leaving, " Well, 
let all these small matters rest forever," and expressed 
himself resolved to go on in the support of my ad- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 4 79 

ministration. I told him that he could, if he would, 
lead the Democratic party in the House. 

Thursday, 1 8th June, 1846. — Saw a large num- 
ber of Visitors this morning. Closed my doors at 12 
O'Clock. The Secretary of State, of War, and the 
Atto. Gen'l called, with whom I transacted public 
business. I was subjected to other interruptions by 
persons calling on special business who sent in their 
names, & I felt bound to receive them, so that I did 
not commence disposing of the business on my table 
until 3 O'Clock P. M. About 5 O'Clock P. M. Mr. 
Dickins (the Secretary of the Senate) called and de- 
livered to me the convention between the U. S. and 
G. B. in relation to the Oregon Territory, accom- 
panied with a Resolution of the Senate ratifying the 
same. Mr. Dickins informed me that the conven- 
tion had been ratified by a vote of ayes 41, noes 14, 
every Senator voting except Mr. Jarnegan of Ten- 
nessee. The Secretary of the Senate informed me 
that Mr. Jarnagan was present in the Senate to-day, 
but had probably stepped out of the Senate chamber 
to avoid voting. 

The company of musicians called Harmonians, 
having requested to perform in the Presidential 
Mansion, attended this evening and sang to a few 
persons not exceeding 20 or 30 in number. 

Friday, igth June, 1846. — Saw company to-day 
until 12 O'Clock, and after that hour was busily en- 
gaged until my dinner hour (4 O'Clock P. M.) in 



4 8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 June 

disposing of the business on my table, and in consul- 
tation with the Secretary of War, in arranging and 
organizing the volunteers called out to prosecute the 
war against Mexico, into Brigades and Divisions. 
About ny 2 O'Clock A. M. Gen'l Edmund P. Gaines 
attended by his aide-de-camp, Lieut. Calhoun, called 
in full uniform. He called he said to Report him- 
self in obedience to orders to repair to Washington. 
He said he received the order at New Orleans on 
the 10th and left on the nth Instant. He remained 
a few minutes engaged in general conversation and 
retired. 

This being reception evening, near 100 persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 20th June, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
The Secretary of War brought the case of Gen'l Ed- 
mund P. Gaines of the U. S. army before the Cabi- 
net. Gen'l Gaines had been ordered from New Or- 
leans to Washington in consequence of his violation 
of orders, and the assumption and exercise of au- 
thority not conferred upon him of calling out Mili- 
tia & Volunteers into the service of the U. S., 
designating the officers, and of mustering them into 
the service of the U. S. The Secretary of War made 
a statement of the case, when the Cabinet were 
unanimous (Mr. Buchanan first expressing his opin- 
ion) that a Court of Enquiry should be ordered, who 
should hear his defence & report the facts of the 
case. I directed the Secretary of War to order a 
Court of Enquiry accordingly. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 481 

I sent for Col. Benton and had an interview with 
him after the Cabinet adjourned. I consulted Col. 
Benton as to the expediency of sending a Regiment 
of Volunteers from New York by sea to California. 
He advised it, if they would go as emigrants and 
agree to be discharged in California at the end of 
their service. I pointed out to Col. Benton the em- 
barrassment and difficulty of executing the act ap- 
proved [on the] 18th Inst, providing for calling 
forth the militia General officers of the States to 
command the Volunteers who had been called into 
the service of the U. States. He saw the difficulty 
and he saw that the law could not be executed. It 
was agreed that the Secretary of War should address 
a letter [to Congress] stating the difficulties of exe- 
cuting the law. Col. B. said [if] he would do so 
Congress would run a Supplemental Bill through on 
Monday next conferring the power on the President 
to appoint these officers. I sent for the Secretary 
of War (after Col. B. left), who agreed in opinion 
with him, and said he would write the letter sug- 
gested. 

Senator McDuffie, who was lately elected Chair- 
man of the Committee of Foreign affairs of the 
Senate in place of Mr. Allen resigned, called 
about 10 O'Clock this morning and held a conver- 
sation of an hour with me in relation to our Foreign 
affairs. 

SUNDAY, 2 1st June, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian Church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. 



482 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 June 

MONDAY, 22nd June, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour I 
had a very busy day, being several times interrupted 
by the calls of members of Congress. I was chiefly 
engaged in considering the matter of executing the 
act of the 18th Instant making further provision for 
the prosecution of the war against Mexico. After 
a further consultation on the subject with the Secre- 
tary of War and with several members of Congress, 
the embarrassments and difficulties which I pointed 
out to Col. Benton on Saturday last were not removed 
(see this diary of Saturday, 20th Instant). I urged 
upon several members the indispensible necessity of 
passing without delay a supplemental bill. They all 
agreed to do so, but it could not be done to-day, be- 
cause according to usage neither House could do any 
business to-day, because of the announcement of the 
death of the Hon. Mr. Herrick, one of the Represent- 
atives from the State of New York, but would ad- 
journ for the day; nor could they do so on to-morrow 
because on that day the funeral ceremonies would be 
attended to, and the body, would be interred. 

The two Senators and several of the Representa- 
tives from the State of Illinois called to-day and pre- 
sented their joint recommendation in writing in 
favour of persons to fill the staff offices of the Illi- 
nois Volunteers who have been called into the public 
service in the war against Mexico. They also rec- 
ommended Senator Semple (who is a Brigadier 
General of militia in Illinois) to command the 
Brigade called out from that State. They also rec- 
ommended Hon. Mr. Douglass of Illinois to be 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 483 

Brigade Major, an appointment which by the act I 
am not authorized to make. I urged upon them the 
necessity of amending the law, with little effect. 
The truth is, that Mr. Semple and several other 
members of Congress who are militia officers in their 
respective States desire to get commands for them- 
selves, and therefore oppose any amendment of the 
act of June 18th, 1846, 1 which requires me to select 
the Brigadier & Major Generals from the officers 
now in command of the militia in the States. The 
passion for office among members of Congress is very 
great, if not absolutely disreputable, and greatly em- 
barrasses the operations of the Government. They 
create offices by their own votes and then seek to fill 
them themselves. I shall refuse to appoint them, 
though it be at the almost certain hazard of incurring 
their displeasure. I shall do so because their ap- 
pointment would be most corrupting in its tendency. 
I am aware that by refusing their applications I may 
reduce my administration to a minority in both 
Houses of Congress, but if such be the result I shall 
have the high satisfaction of having discharged my 
duty in resisting the selfishness of members of Con- 
gress, who are willing to abandon their duty to their 
constituents and provide places for themselves. I 
will not countenance such selfishness, but will do my 
duty, and rely on the country for an honest support 
of my administration. 

TUESDAY, 23rd June, 1846. — This was the regu- 
lar day of meeting of the Cabinet. All the members 

1 U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 17. 



484 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 June 

attended. Before entering on regular business I re- 
paired with the Cabinet, except the Atto. Gen'l who 
was too unwell to go, to the Capitol to attend the 
funeral of the Hon. Mr. Herrick, late a Representa- 
tive from the State of New York. I returned from 
the Funeral services about 2 O'Clock P. M. The 
Cabinet did not again assemble, although I saw and 
transacted business with several members of it. At 
my request The Secretary of War brought Gen'l Gib- 
son, 1 the Commissary General of subsistence, to my 
office, and I had a full interview with him in relation 
to the prosecution of the Mexican war so far as de- 
pended on his bureau. I told him that I wished no 
wasteful expenditure of public money, but that I de- 
sired to have full and ample provision made for the 
army on the Rio Grande and now assembling there. 
I told him to spare no necessary expense to effect 
this, and that if it was not done I would hold him 
responsible for the failure. 

I saw Mr. Douglass of the Ho. Repts. from Illi- 
nois to-day, and in a long and friendly conversation 
advised him to abandon his application for a place 
in the army & remain in his seat in Congress. I ex- 
pressed to him my objections to appoint members of 
Congress to office, and especially to offices created 
by laws passed by their votes. Mr. Douglass is a 
sensible man, and he received what I said to him 
well. In the after part of the day he addressed me 
a letter withdrawing [the application] which was 

1 George Gibson, 1 783-1 861. Commissary General 18 18, given 
rank of Major General in 1848 for meritorious service in the Mex- 
ican War. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 485 

made in his behalf by the Illinois delegation on yes- 
terday. 

This was reception evening and near 100 persons, 
gentlemen and ladies, called. 

WEDNESDAY, 24th June, 1846. — Had a very la- 
borious day; saw company until 12 o'clock. After 
that hour I prepared a message nominating to the 
Senate about sixty staff officers of the army of the 
Rank of Major and Captain, in pursuance of the act 
of the 1 8th Instant. I withheld the nomination of 
one Major General and two Brigadier Generals, 
authorized by the act of 18th of June, 1846, in the 
expectation that Congress would to-day or to-mor- 
row pass a supplemental act. I sent several other 
executive messages to the Senate. 

The Secretary of War at my request called with 
Gen'l Jesup, the Quarter Master General, and I held 
a conversation with him, in substance the same as 
that held with Gen'l Gibson on yesterday (see this 
diary of yesterday) . I directed him to make ample 
provision for the troops called out to prosecute the 
war against Mexico, so far as related to the Quarter 
Master's Department, & I told him I should hold 
him responsible for any failure in this respect. I 
directed him to provide as well for the irregular 
forces called out by the unauthorized act of Gen'l 
Gaines as for the forces ordered out by the Govern- 
ment. 

The Secretary of the Senate delivered to me this 
afternoon a Resolution of the Senate rejecting the 
nomination of Henry Horn as Collector of Phila. 



4 86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 June 

Mr. Horn had been rejected on the 25th ultimo, and 
was renominated to the Senate for the reasons stated 
in this diary, to which I refer. 1 When I renomi- 
nated him I had positive assurances from several 
Senators that in a full Senate he would have been 
confirmed. Mr. Semple (Senator from Illinois) 
who voted for him on the first nomination, voted 
against him on the last, for no reason known to me 
unless it be that he is an applicant to me for a Brig- 
adier-General's command of Volunteers, which I 
have declined to confer upon him. The selfishness 
of some members of Congress who make their pub- 
lic duties bend to their personal interests, proves at 
least that they are no better or purer than the mass 
of other men. Senator Atchison of Missouri, who 
was absent from the Senate on the first nomination, 
voted against Mr. Horn on the second nomination, 
although Senator Lewis had informed me that Sen- 
ator Atchison had authorized him to assure me that 
if Mr. Horn was renominated he would renominate 
[vote for] him. Upon this assurance from Mr. 
Atchison as well as similar assurances from other 
Senators who were absent I had renominated Mr. 
Horn. The other Senators who professed to belong 
to the Democratic party, but who really act with the 
Whig party, who voted against Mr. Horn are Mr. 
Cameron, Mr. Wescott, and Mr. Calhoun. Mr. 
Hannegan, who had informed [me] he would vote 
for Mr. Horn if I would renominate him, was ab- 
sent and did not vote. Messrs. Hannegan, Semple, 
and Atchison have lashed themselves into a passion 

1 See Diary entries for May 26-28, 1846. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 487 

because twothirds of the Senate advised the accep- 
tance of the Brittish proposition for the adjustment of 
the Oregon question, and subsequently voted for the 
ratification, and have since that time voted and acted 
with the Whig party. They voted first for Mr. 
Archer (Whig) and then for Mr. Webster (Whig) 
for chairman of the committee of Foreign affairs, 
and refused through many ballotings to vote for Sen- 
ator Sevier, who was the Democratic candidate, & 
ultimately defeated his election. They now vote 
against my nominations, as I suppose out of spite. 
The sooner such party men go into the ranks of the 
Whig party the better. They oppose, too, and em- 
barrass the military Bills for the prosecution of the 
war against Mexico. They profess to be in a great 
rage (there is certainly no reason in their course) at 
the settlement of the Oregon question, and yet they 
can find no just cause of complaint against me, be- 
cause my message transmitting the proposal to the 
Senate, as they know, repeated the doctrines and 
positions of my annual message of the 2nd December 
last, which they had over and over again approved. 
Their course is that of spoiled children. I have 
treated them with great civility and have yielded to 
their wishes about appointments in their respective 
States until they seem to have come to the conclusion 
that I must administer the Government precisely as 
they may direct. In this they will find themselves 
mistaken. 

The Marine band played on the President's 
grounds this evening. Several hundred persons 
were present. 



488 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 June 

THURSDAY, 25th June, 1846. — Saw company un- 
til 12 O'Clock to-day. I nominated Col. James 
Page of Phila. to the Senate to-day, as collector of 
Phila., in place of Henry Horn who was rejected by 
the Senate on yesterday. I sent a message by Mr. 
Cave Johnson, P. M. Gen'l (who called early this 
morning) to Mr. Buchanan that I intended to nom- 
inate Col. Page. Mr. Buchanan called about 11^ 
O'Clock, and I repeated to him personally that such 
was my intention. He said he would not have any- 
thing to say in the matter, but remarked that Col. 
Page was more bitterly opposed to him than any 
man in Pennsylvania except Henry Simpson. He 
said further that he thought I ought to consult the 
Pennsylvania delegation in Congress in reference to 
the appointment. I replied that this was a peculiar 
case, and that my consideration and independence as 
President of the U. S. required that I should show to 
Mr. Cameron and others who had made a factious 
opposition, not only to Mr. Horn, but to Mr. Wood- 
ward as Judge of the Supreme Court, that by their 
rejection neither they nor their friends should be 
profited by it. I told him that I was resolved that 
no man who had taken an active part in procuring 
Mr. Horn's rejection in order to make a vacancy to 
be filled by some favourite should ever be profited 
by it. I told him that he knew that I had set aside 
Col. Page for the Phila. P. office & had appointed 
Dr. Leghman, 1 with a view if possible to preserve 
harmony in the party in Penn., when in truth Mr. 

1 George F. Lehman, nominated Postmaster at Philadelphia 
December 29, 1845. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 489 

Page was more strongly recommended than any other 
person for the place. I told him, too, that Col. 
Page was qualified, was a man of high character and 
substance, and that I knew the public money would 
be safe in his hands. I told him I had seen Senator 
Sturgeon this morning, who thought Col. Page was 
the best appointment I could make. I told him also 
that Hon. Mr. Foster of the House of Repts. had 
remarked to me in conversation this morning, that 
either Col. Page, Mr. Rush, Mr. McCully, or Mr. 
Welsh would be satisfactory appointments. Mr. 
B. expressed his surprise that Mr. Foster had ex- 
pressed such an opinion of Col. Page. The Secre- 
tary of the Treasury came in while I was in conver- 
sation with Mr. B., and I told him I was about to 
nominate Col. Page as Collector of Phila., to which 
he replied that he would make a good officer. Mr. 
B. remarked that he would prefer Mr. Rush to Col. 
Page. I told him my mind was made up to nomi- 
nate Col. Page & I did so. The truth is, that it is a 
contest between different political cliques in Penn. 
to get possession of the patronage of the Phila. Cus- 
tom House. It was with this view that Mr. Horn 
was rejected, and I am resolved not to lend myself 
to it. Mr. Buchanan did not become excited, but his 
great weakness, in this case as in many others which 
have occur [r]ed, consists in his exceeding sensitive- 
ness about appointments, and especially in Pennsyl- 
vania. He retired and in a short time afterwards 
addressed me a note accompanied with a package of 
papers recommending Thomas McCully for Collec- 
tor of Phila. Before I received it, my Private 



490 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 June 

Secretary had gone to the Senate with Col. Page's 
nomination. 

I spent the balance of the day laboriously in dis- 
posing of the business on my table. 

J. Geo. Harris and James H. Thomas of Ten- 
nessee took a family dinner with me to-day. 

Friday, 26th June, 1846. — Saw company as usual 
until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour I was oc- 
cupied through the day in disposing of the business 
on my table. Several of the Heads of Departments 
called during the day on business. Several mem- 
bers of Congress called also, whom I saw, though it 
was against my rule to do so after 12 O'Clock. 

This was reception evening. The Circular par- 
lour was crowded with ladies and gentlemen. 

SATURDAY, 2Jth June, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day; all the members present. 
Several subjects were considered & disposed of, but 
none of them of great importance. The Cabinet 
adjourned about iy 2 O'Clock P.M. and I devoted 
the balance of the day to the business on my table. 

During my evening's walk I met Senator Breese 
and Mr. McClernand * of the Ho. Repts from Illi- 
nois, who informed me that Senator Semple of 
Illinois, who had been recommended by the Illinois 
delegation in Congress for the command of a Brigade 
of Volunteers, not wishing to embarrass me and 

1 John A. McClernand, 1812-1900, Representative from Illinois 
1 843-1 85 1, and 1 859-1 86 1 ; Federal officer in Civil War. 



i8 4 6] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



491 



having understood that I desired to avoid the ap- 
pointment of members of Congress, had authorized 
them to withdraw his application. 

After night Senator Colquitt called, and after con- 
versing with me on several public subjects, informed 
me that General Haralson of the Ho. Repts. from 
Georgia, who had been an applicant for the com- 
mand of a Brigade or Division of Volunteers, would 
not take exception to my course if he was not ap- 
pointed, provided I established a general rule against 
the appointment of any member of Congress. I 
told Mr. Colquitt that as a general rule I thought it 
improper to appoint members of Congress to offices, 
& especially to such offices as had been created by 
laws passed by their votes. I told him I would not 
like to restrict myself by any positive general rule, 
for it was possible that a case might occur in which 
it would not be improper to appoint a member of 
Congress to a military office. I told him that I had 
several applications from members of Congress for 
offices both military and civil, and that I was disin- 
clined to appoint them. He approved of my course. 
As a general [rule] I think members of Congress 
should not be appointed to office by the Executive. 
The exceptions to this rule may be, Cabinet officers, 
Foreign Ministers of the higher grade, Judges of 
the Supreme Court, and in time of war perhaps the 
higher military officers. But even in these cases it 
is desirable to avoid appointing members of Con- 
gress, if men equally qualified and with sufficient 
character before the country can be procured. 



492 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 June 

SUNDAY, 28th June, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. 

Mr. Cave Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, called this 
morning and handed me a note from Mr. Buchanan, 
Secy, of State, to the effect that after much hesitation 
he had made up his mind to accept the appointment 
of Judge of the Supreme Court of the U. S. which I 
had some days ago informed him he could have if he 
still desired it. He stated in his note that he had 
come to this conclusion reluctantly, and intimated 
that he would be still willing to remain in my cab- 
inet if he thought his retirement from it would in- 
jure my administration. Mr. Johnson expressed the 
opinion that I ought to retain him in my Cabinet, 
and that Mr. B. would leave it to me whether he 
would take the Judgeship or remain in the Cabinet. 
I told Mr. Johnson I would see Mr. Buchanan and 
hold a conversation with him on the subject. 

Monday, 2Qth June, 1846. — Had an unusually 
large crowd of visitors this morning. It was known 
that I would probably nominate to-day, the Brig- 
adier and Maj'r Generals to command the volunteer 
force called into the service in the war against Mex- 
ico. These appointments excited much interest and 
I was called on by members of the Ohio, Indiana, 
Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, 
Georgia, and Tennessee delegations in Congress in 
relation to these appointments. I had less difficulty 
in reconciling them to the appointments which I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



493 



proposed to make than I anticipated. The greatest 
difficulty was with the Illinois Delegation. About 
i l /z O'Clock P. M. my Private Secretary went to the 
Senate with a message nominating two Brigadier 
Generals of the Regular Army, viz., Col. Kearney 
and Col. Twiggs, both of the line of the army, and 
one Major General and six Brigadier Generals to 
command the Volunteers. Gen'l Haralson of the 
Ho. Repts. from Georgia called before I sent in my 
message nominating the Generals and withdrew his 
application, saying that he knew I was embarrassed 
by the applications of members of Congress. He 
went [on] to remark that he thought himself that it 
was best not to appoint members of Congress, but he 
hoped that I would make an exception in the case of 
Gov. Yell of Arkansas, who had left Washington for 
Arkansas to join the Volunteers before the late acts 
of Congress creating the Brigadier and Maj'r Gen- 
erals was [were] passed, that he did not of course 
vote for these laws, and that it was now understood 
that he was in the ranks as a private soldier. He ex- 
pressed a strong desire that I would appoint Gov. 
Yell Brigadier Gen'l of the Arkansas Brigade. I 
told Gen'l H. I thought his course honourable to 
himself and magnanimous. 

Members of Congress continued to call during the 
whole day about the military officers of various 
grades to be appointed. It was one of the severest 
day's labour I have had since I have been President. 

At $y 2 O'Clock I received a letter from Senator 
Semple of 111. Saying that he had authorized his 
friends to withdraw his application for Brigadier 



494 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 June 

General. It was not written in good temper, and 
was not delivered to me for 1^/2 hours after I had sent 
to the Senate a nomination for a Brigadier General 
to command the Illinois Volunteers. Senator Sem- 
ple probably knew of the nomination before his let- 
ter was written. His letter was brought to me from 
the Post office by my messenger with my mail. 

I learned this morning that Mr. Tibbatts, a mem- 
ber of the Ho. Repts. from Kentucky, made a vio- 
lent attack upon me in a speech 1 in the House to- 
day, in reference to the Oregon question. The tariff 
Bill was the subject before the House. The reason 
of Mr. Tibbatts's hostility I think I understand. He 
made application to me some weeks ago to be ap- 
pointed a Col. of the Rifle Regiment authorized 
by Congress at the present session and I did not ap- 
point him. This is probably the cause of his grief, 
and has no doubt led to the attack which I under- 
stand he made upon me to-day. I am satisfied I 
acted properly, and if I incur the hostility or oppo- 
sition of members of Congress because I do not ap- 
point them to office, I am content to incur it. None 
but small men would act upon such selfish principles. 
All I desire is that the public shall understand the 
true cause of their hostility and their opposition. 

I received a letter from the Hon. Governor Kem- 
ble 2 to-day informing me that he had understood 

1 Printed in Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. A pp. 1018, but incor- 
rectly stated to have been delivered July 1. Tibbatts had spoken 
in defence of Polk and of the war on May 12 and May 19, 1846, 
ibid, 908. 

2 Probably Gouveneur Kemble, Representative from New York 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 495 

that the Navy Department was about to remove Mr. 
Craven, the Naval Store-Keeper at New York, and 
to appoint a Mr. Pentz 1 in his place. Mr. Kemble 
expressed the opinion that this change would be 
almost universally disapproved by my friends, and 
urged strong objections against it. I sent for Mr. 
Bancroft, and showed him Mr. Kemble's letter. I 
expressed in strong terms my objections to the pro- 
posed change, and he concluded to suspend it for the 
present. He had previously ordered it to take place 
on the 1st of July. I think Mr. Bancroft has made 
a mistake in this matter. He acted undoubtedly 
from good motives, but he has been deceived. 

TUESDAY, 30th June, 1846. — This was the Reg- 
ular day of meeting of the Cabinet. All the mem- 
bers attended except the attorney General, who, it 
was understood, was detained in consequence of in- 
disposition. The Mexican war became the subject 
of discussion in the Cabinet. It was brought up by 
a question propounded by the Secretary of the Navy 
in regard to the policy of our blockading squadron 
seizing and holding Tampico. A discussion arose 
between Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker in regard 
to the objects of the War against Mexico, in the 
course of which Mr. Buchanan expressed himself in 
favour of acquiring the Rio Grande as our Western 
boundary as high up as the Passo in about latitude 
32 of North Latitude & thence West to the Pacific. 

1 837-1 841, a prominent member of the group to which Peter 
Brevoort, J. K. Paulding, and Washington Irving belonged. 
1 Adam P. Pentz of New York. 



496 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 June 

He expressed himself as being opposed to acquiring 
any territory by Treaty with Mexico South of 32 
of North Latitude. He spoke of the unwillingness 
of the North to acquire so large a Country that would 
probably become a slave-holding country if attached 
to the U. S. Mr. Walker warmly resisted Mr. B.'s 
views, and insisted that we should if practicable ac- 
quire by Treaty, all the country North of a line 
drawn from the mouth of the Rio Grande in Lati- 
tude about 26 West to the Pacific. Mr. Buchanan 
said it was necessary to know what the objects of the 
war were, that it might be conducted accordingly; 
that if it was the object of the President to acquire 
all the country North of 26 , the line indicated by 
Mr. Walker, including all of the Department of 
Tamaulapas, it should be known, and added that if 
we attempted to acquire all this territory the opinion 
of the world would be against [us], and especially as 
it would become a slave-holding country, whereas 
while it was in possession of Mexico slavery did not 
exist in it. Mr. Walker remarked that he would be 
willing to fight the whole world sooner than suffer 
other Powers to interfere in the matter. I remained 
silent until the discussion had proceeded to a consid- 
erable length, when I spoke, and said in substance 
that the causes and objects of the war were as I sup- 
posed well understood, and that when we came to 
make peace the terms of the peace would be a sub- 
ject for consideration. As to the boundary which 
we should establish by a Treaty of Peace, I remarked 
that I preferred the 26 to any boundary North of 
it, but that if it was found that that boundary could 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 497 

not be obtained I was willing to take 32 , but that in 
any event we must obtain Upper California and New 
Mexico in any Treaty of Peace we would make. 
The other members of the Cabinet expressed no 
opinions, not being called upon to do so. The dis- 
cussion between Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker was 
an animated one. 

Other matters connected with the Mexican War, 
as well as other public matters of no general impor- 
tance were considered, and the Cabinet adjourned. 

Mr. [My] Private Secretary returned from the 
Capitol about 3 O'Clock P. M. and informed me that 
Mr. Brinkerhoff, a member of the Ho. Repts. from 
Ohio, had to-day made a speech l on the tariff Bill 
now pending before the House, and had taken occa- 
sion to make a violent attack on me, in which he com- 
plained that the State of Ohio had not received her 
share of offices. The selfishness, and I might add the 
corruption of a few members of Congress, if dis- 
closed, would be incredible to the public. The real 
cause of Mr. BrinkerhofFs attack consists in the fact 
that he made application to me a few days ago to ap- 
point him a Paymaster in the army under a law 
passed at the present Session of Congress, creating 
three additional Paymasters, and for which Mr. 
Brinkerhoff had voted, and I had refused to do so 
(see this diary of the 12th Instant). On yesterday 
Mr. Tibbatts of Ky., who had applied to me to ap- 
point him Colonel of the mounted Rifle Regiment 
and been refused, attacked me. To-day Mr. Brink- 
erhoff, who had applied to be a Paymaster in the 

1 Globe, 29 Cong. 1 Sess. J pp. 784. 



49 8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 

army and been refused, attacked me. Both these 
gentlemen were elected as Democrats, but their con- 
duct shows that they think more of their own per- 
sonal interests than they do of principle. Both of 
them I understand intend to vote against the modi- 
fication of the tariff. This intention they never an- 
nounced until they were disappointed in obtaining 
offices for themselves. Such conduct ought to be ex- 
posed to their constituents and the public. If my 
measures are to fail because I will not appoint selfish 
members of Congress to office, the true reasons for 
their course should be known to the public. 

After the Cabinet adjourned Mr. Bancroft & Mr. 
Marcy remained at my request, and the proposed re- 
moval of Mr. Craven, Naval store-keeper at New 
York, and the appointment of Mr. Pentz in his 
place, was considered. Mr. Marcy spoke modestly, 
but distinctly intimated his opinion in opposition to 
the change. I repeated to Mr. Bancroft the opin- 
ions I had expressed to him on yesterday, but said to 
him that he could do as he pleased, stating to him at 
the same time that I thought it would be attended 
with the worst of consequences. 

This was the regular reception evening; but in 
consequence of an unusual[ly] heavy fall of rain 
about night, no company called. Senator Houston 
and Mr. Martin of Tenn. were with me during the 
fall of the rain. 



END OF VOL. I. 



F 



THE DIARY 

OF 

JAMES K. 

POLK 



VOLUME 
I 



A.C. McCLURG & CO. 




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